Most adults will develop thirty-two teeth by the age of eighteen, sixteen teeth on the top and sixteen teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molar teeth are used to grind up food into a consistency suitable for swallowing.
The average mouth is made to hold only twenty-eight teeth. It can be painful and unhealthy when thirty-two teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only twenty-eight teeth. These four additional teeth are your third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.”
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and can cause an infection which results in swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure. New scientific studies demonstrate a strong link between dental/periodontal infections and serious systemic problems including cardiovascular disease.
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and can predict future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid- teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is the only specialist with the appropriate training, license, and experience to provide various types of anesthesia for patients to choose from. These services are provided in an environment of optimum safety, utilizing modern monitoring equipment and staff experienced in anesthesia techniques.
In most cases, the removal of wisdom teeth is performed under local anesthesia or general anesthesia. The oral surgeon will discuss these options as well as the surgical risks (i.e. sensory nerve injury) before the procedure is performed.