Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to erupt in the mouth. These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth. For others, wisdom teeth erupt normally — just as their other molars did — and cause no problems. Many people, however, develop impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don’t have enough room to erupt into the mouth or grow normally. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially or not at all.
You’ll likely need your impacted wisdom tooth pulled if it results in problems such as:
- Infection. The most frequent clinical problem we see is pericoronitis, (a localized gum 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.
- Damage to an adjacent tooth
- Development of a fluid-filled sac (cyst) around the wisdom tooth
- Damage to surrounding bone
- Complications with orthodontic treatments to straighten other teeth
- Trapping food and debris behind the wisdom tooth
- Infection or gum disease (periodontal disease)
- Tooth decay in a partially erupted wisdom tooth
There can be some advantages to keeping your wisdom teeth. For example, they can provide support for a dental bridge, or fill in the space left by a missing molar.
It is important to consult with your dentist to consider all of the pros and cons of extracting your wisdom teeth. A thorough dental examination, including digital panoramic X-rays must be undertaken to determine candicacy for extraction and the best means to approach the procedure. It is important to remember that the complication risks associated with extraction for people over 35 are greater than those of younger candidates. People over 50 faced with extraction are at a greater risk of complications because the bone fuses to the teeth as we age. Ultimately, if you wait to remove wisdom teeth until there is cause for medical concern, the risk for all complications increases.