Wisdom Teeth

By the age of 18, the average adult has 32 teeth; 16 teeth on the top and 16 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 (molar teeth) are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing. The rear-most ones are the third molars or “wisdom teeth”. The average mouth only has room for 28 teeth, the last set often has insufficient room to come through to a healthy position.

Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt into 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. Often, given that they are the last ones to erupt, there is no room left. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting into the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum within bone. Impacted (stuck) teeth can take many positions in the bone.

These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to get down around the tooth and will eventually cause an infection. The result is swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and crowd the front teeth. Pressure against the adjacent tooth can damage it and necessitate removal of the tooth.  The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending third molar tooth usually resolves the trouble, BUT early removal of  impacted teeth (not just third molars, but any impacted tooth) avoids these problems.  Early removal has decreased  surgical risk involved with the procedure.

With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Drs. Moore and Wong can evaluate the third molars and determine if there are any present or anticipated (future) problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment results in a superior outcome for the patient. Ideally, patients are evaluated in the early teenage years. By then the jaws are full grown and it is apparent whether there will be room for the third molars; if not, early removal is best for the patient.

The Procedure

In order to put you at ease and in absolute comfort, removal of third molars is commonly performed completely asleep. Removal of third molars is a surgical procedure. An incision is made in the gum, the gum is lifted, bone is removed with a high speed drill under saline irrigation, the tooth is often cut into pieces, the pieces removed, socket cleaned and then sutured with dissolvable stitches.  Sterile damp gauze is placed to apply pressure to control bleeding. You will rest under supervision until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, your postoperative care package will include postoperative instructions, pain medication, sterile gauze, and an antiseptic rinse.