Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 15 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat. The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.
In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly, become fully functional and in a position for the patient to be able to keep them clean. When there is not enough space for complete eruption and function, the tooth can become impacted (stuck so that he tooth is not fully erupted in the mouth) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, bone loss and possibly cysts or tumors.
Reasons to Remove Wisdom Teeth
While not all wisdom teeth require removal, most never reach a proper position and need removal. While wisdom teeth extractions are performed because of an active problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection, many are done as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present, and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:
Damage to nearby teeth: Second molars (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and possible bone loss.
Disease: Cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth. While rare, when these do occur they can cause significant damage to surrounding structures.
Infection: Bacteria and food can become trapped under the gum tissue, resulting in an infection. The infection can cause considerable pain and danger.
Tooth Crowding: It has been theorized that impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted). This is one of the main reasons that the orthodontist suggests removal, in order to prevent the well-aligned teeth from becoming crowded again.
Wisdom teeth Removal
The first step in having the wisdom removed is to schedule a consultation with the surgeons at San Antonio Oral Surgery. At this visit your surgeon will want to conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom teeth and surrounding area. A panoramic digital x-ray will be taken (or may be sent from your general dentist) in order to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists, or the likelihood of any potential future problems. The x-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions. Your surgeon will also discuss the options available to your for anesthesia, including local anesthesia, nitrous oxide with local or sedation.
What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure in our office. Most patient's surgery is done in our office and the patients are usually about one hour on the day of surgery. Generally patients need about 2-3 days (weekend) of recovery time at home. Common post surgery findings are swelling, soft diet for a few days and bleeding that last a just few hours on the first day. Your surgeon will discuss what to expect in detail at your consult appointment. You will be released with post-operative instructions and medication (if necessary), to help manage any swelling or discomfort.