Wisdom teeth or your third molars grow in the upper and lower jaws at the far back of the mouth. They usually emerge in late teens or early 20s behind the existing adult teeth. The term ‘wisdom teeth’ is used because these teeth usually erupt at an age when people are considered to have become wiser with experience and age (17 – 25 years of age).
In the past, wisdom teeth were used for a diet rich in meat and other hard foods. These days wisdom teeth usually do not erupt fully to their desired position in the mouth and hence may not contribute at all to the chewing of the food. This could happen if the jaws are not big enough for them to fit properly in the mouth.
When your wisdom teeth align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
The removal of wisdom teeth is necessary if they are being prevented from properly erupting in the mouth.
As they are trying to come through, they can get impacted, or grow sideways towards the cheek or the tongue, or partially emerge from the gum and remain trapped beneath the gum and bone (impacted wisdom teeth), or become crooked in the jaw. These different positions of the wisdom teeth in the jaw can result as they try to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully in the mouth.
In the above-mentioned situations, the removal of wisdom teeth may be recommended because of the following reasons:-
- Pain – When teeth are erupting or trying to come out in the mouth, they can be painful, and if there is not enough space in the mouth for teeth to grow properly this pain can be amplified. If the wisdom teeth are pressing on the nerve in the jaw bone this can result in excruciating pain in that area.
- Poor gum health – Sometimes wisdom teeth can be so crooked and so far back in the mouth, that it is almost impossible to brush or floss them or keep them clean. This can cause food lodgement in wisdom teeth and inability to maintain oral hygiene which can then result in bad breath, poor gum health or cavities in wisdom teeth.
- Crowding of mouth – If the wisdom teeth are pushing onto the existing adult teeth they can result in crowding of mouth and misalignment of other teeth. Sometimes it can also result in a change in the bite.
- Development of cysts – Unerupted and fully developed wisdom teeth can result in the formation of cysts in the jaws. If these cysts become infected they can cause damage to the jaw bone on the nerves and soft tissues of the mouth.
When should you get your wisdom teeth removed?
Consult your dentist for the best time to have your wisdom teeth removed, however usually removing them before they have a chance to cause complications is recommended.
What is involved?
Depending upon the position of your wisdom teeth and the difficulty of extraction the procedure for removing your wisdom teeth can vary. It is recommended to consult your dentist to discuss the best way to remove them and discuss all the risks and complications involved in getting your wisdom teeth removed.
Wisdom teeth removals can be performed in a general dental practice but for complicated cases your dentist may refer you to a specialist oral surgeon practice.