What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are molars and the last in line in the upper and lower jaws.

Wisdom teeth are the last to develop and grow in when you are “older and wiser”, usually between 16 and 20 years of age.

If the wisdom teeth will not erupt normally and become functional, have the potential to cause severe problems, and since the risks of removal are lowest with early removal, it is beneficial to avoid a problem rather than wait for one.

Why should I have my Wisdom Teeth removed?

YEARS OF ORTHODONTIC THERAPY ARE AT RISK

Impacted wisdom teeth can grow in almost any direction. Often there is not sufficient room for wisdom teeth to erupt into the proper position and they can cause pressure and pain. Frequently they will contribute to shifting of the teeth, including the front teeth.

TOOTH DECAY

Wisdom teeth can be hard to clean leading to decay of both the wisdom tooth and damage to the adjacent molar which may also have to be extracted.

CYSTS AND TUMORS

Wisdom teeth develop inside a sack of tissue called a follicle. If the tooth does not erupt fully this tissue can develop into a cyst or tumor. People who have elected not to have wisdom teeth removed should have them examined and x-rayed regularly in order to detect pathology early.

JOINT PROBLEMS (TMJ)

The lower jaw swings closed with the lower teeth meeting the upper teeth much as the hinge on a door allows the door to swing closed smoothly. The presence or eruption of wisdom teeth can influence the position of the teeth so that the teeth do not meet exactly and thus transmit excessive forces to the temporomanibular joint (TMJ) causing pain. Persistent pain in the joint can lead to destruction of the joint requiring joint therapy, surgery or in some cases joint replacement.

INFECTION

When the wisdom tooth partially erupts, it is particularly susceptible to infection (pericoronitis) and decay. Recent studies draw a strong correlation to generalized gum disease (periodontitis) and wisdom teeth. Severe infection can spread to the cheek, neck and throat requiring hospitalization.

TRAUMA

The presence of impacted wisdom teeth results in an increased possibility of jaw fractures from facial trauma. A wisdom tooth growing sideways can irritate the cheek or tongue, and interfere with your bite.

As we age, the risks associated with wisdom tooth removal, as well as post-operative complications increase. The best time for removal is before the roots fully develop, usually 15 years old for girls and 16-17 years old for boys. A consultation exam and x-rays allow us to evaluate the level of development of the tooth and jaws and determine when it is best to have wisdom teeth removed.