Wisdom Teeth

The average adult has thirty-two teeth by age 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 while the back teeth, or molar teeth, are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.

However, the average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your Third Molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.”

Why should I remove my 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 will eventually cause an infection. The result: 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.

Should All Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?

Not all wisdom teeth should be removed. Third molars in normal position can be used to chew and are not extracted except for obvious dental reasons, such as cavities that cannot be filled or otherwise untreatable gum disease. If an impacted wisdom tooth has been in the mouth of a person fifty years old and shows no signs of disease on x-ray and no signs of infection in the mouth, there is a good chance this tooth will not cause a problem in the future. The tooth should be x-rayed and checked periodically by your dentist for any of the problems that can develop with wisdom teeth. Generally, all wisdom teeth that are impacted in a young person should be extracted. As people get older the decision to remove an impacted wisdom tooth depends on individual circumstances.

When Should Impacted Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?

The key to timely attention to wisdom teeth is x-rays of the mouth in the teen years. With the help of these pictures, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon frequently can tell if the wisdom teeth are going to be troublesome in the near future or later in life. If so, chances are the oral surgeon will opt for early removal, rather than wait until the patient is older. And for good reason. Removal usually is easier in younger patients. Roots are probably not yet fully developed and the bone is less dense. As a result, removal at an early age is less complicated and recovery time remarkably shorter.

Oral Examination

With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. Cox can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there may be present or 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 by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Dr. Cox has the training, license and experience to provide various types of anesthesia to allow patients to select the best alternative. These services are provided in an environment of optimum safety, utilizing modern monitoring equipment and staff experienced in anesthesia techniques.