Wisdom Teeth Removal
The average adult has 32 teeth by age 18. There are normally 16 teeth on top and 16 teeth on bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth are referred to as the incisors, canine, and bicuspid teeth. These are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces while the back teeth, or molar teeth, are used to grind food into a consistency suitable for swallowing. The average mouth is only made to hold 28 teeth, and it can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit. These four other teeth are your third molars and are referred to as “wisdom teeth.”
With an oral examination and a panoramic x-ray of the mouth, Dr. Bouneff or Dr. Kooning will evaluate the position of the teeth and predict if there are any present or possible future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient.
Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
If you do not have enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to fully erupt, a number of problems can occur. Impacted wisdom teeth should be removed before their root structure is fully developed. In some patients, removal can take place as early as ages 12 or 13. In others, it may not be until their early twenties. Problems tend to occur with increasing frequency after the age of 30. Some of the possible problems related to not removing your wisdom teeth include:
The most frequent clinical problem we see with wisdom teeth is pericoronitis, a localized gum infection. When they are partially erupted, the opening in the gums around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. Without enough room for total eruption, the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth can become irritated and infected, resulting in recurrent pain, swelling, and problems with chewing and/or swallowing.
Non-infectious diseases may also arise in association with an impacted wisdom tooth. Cysts are fluid-filled “balloons” inside the jaw bone that develop as a result of impacted teeth. They slowly expand, destroying adjacent jaw bone and occasionally teeth. They can be very difficult to treat if your wisdom teeth are not removed in your teenage years. Although rare, tumors can be associated with the delayed removal of wisdom teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth may contribute to crowding of your teeth. This is most noticeable with the front teeth, primarily the lower front teeth. This is most commonly seen after a patient has had braces. There are a number of factors that cause teeth to crowd after braces or in early adulthood, however. Retained, impacted wisdom teeth may be a contributing factor. Unless you have an active problem when you see the oral surgeon, the reason for removal is primarily to prevent long-term damage to your teeth, gums, and jaw bone.
Damage to Adjacent Teeth:
If there is inadequate room to clean around the wisdom tooth, the tooth directly in front (the second molar) can be adversely affected resulting in gum disease, bone loss around the tooth, and/or decay.
What If I Don’t Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed as a Teenager or Young Adult?
The roots become longer and the jaw bone denser as the wisdom teeth develop. When it is necessary to remove impacted wisdom teeth in your thirties, forties or beyond, the post-operative course can be prolonged and there is a higher complication rate. Treating these complications in older patients is often more difficult and less predictable than with a younger patient.
For older patients, healing may be slower and the chance of infection can be increased. If your impacted wisdom teeth are not removed in your teenage years or early twenties and they are completely impacted in bone, it may be advisable to wait until a localized problem (such as cyst formation or localized gum disease and bone loss) develops. In general, you will heal faster and more predictably with fewer complications if treated in your teens or early twenties.
The Surgical Procedure
In most cases, the removal of teeth is performed under IV sedation or general anesthesia. These options, as well as the possible surgical risks, will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed. The gum is sutured once the teeth are removed and gauze is placed in your mouth to help control bleeding.
Our office staff has the training, licensing, and experience to provide the various types of anesthesia. These services are provided in an environment of optimum safety, utilizing modern monitoring equipment and a well-trained, experienced staff. The Surgical Care Team, the office facilities, and the doctors are inspected on behalf of the American Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
On the day of your procedure, we ask that a parent or responsible adult accompanies you to the office and plans to stay with you the rest of the day. The procedure will take about 30 to 60 minutes and you will probably be in the office for about 90 minutes. Recent advances in medicine and technology allow patients to undergo wisdom tooth removal in a manner that promotes rapid healing and minimal post-operative discomfort. You will be given a prescription to fill and take at home to minimize pain and ensure proper healing.
If you have any questions or would like a consultation, give us a call. We’re happy to talk about the options with you.