Your third molars, commonly known as your wisdom teeth, are typically the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. They usually erupt into your mouth between the ages of 15-22. If healthy and functional, your wisdom teeth can be useful. However, for many people, there are several reasons why you may need to consider removing your wisdom teeth.
Many people do not have adequate space in their jaws for the wisdom teeth to fully erupt. In these cases, the wisdom teeth get stuck below the bone or gumline, and are considered to be impacted. When impacted, your wisdom teeth can cause swelling, pain and even infection of the surrounding gums. They can also put pressure on the adjacent teeth, which can result in permanent damage to these otherwise healthy teeth and their surrounding bone. Sometimes, impacted or partially impacted wisdom teeth can also lead to the formation of cysts, and in worse case scenarios even tumors, which could potentially affect an entire section of your jaw.
In some cases, fully erupted wisdom tooth may need to be removed because due to their location, they are very hard to clean and can become severely decayed.
How do I know if I need my wisdom teeth removed?
As part of our normal exams, we will evaluate your wisdom teeth. For teenagers, we will take a panoramic X-ray to evaluate how many wisdom teeth you have, and where they are located. We can often tell from this X-ray if the wisdom teeth will have sufficient space to erupt, or whether they are inclined to become impacted. For patients whose wisdom teeth have fully erupted, we will monitor them to make sure that they are cavity-free and have healthy gums around them. In the case where proper hygiene cannot be achieve around wisdom teeth, we will recommend having the teeth removed to prevent further problems in the future.
When should I remove my wisdom teeth?
There is no single right answer for everyone; however, if your dentist has advised you that your wisdom teeth look potentially problematic then it’s generally best to remove them sooner rather than later.
This advice is based on the fact that the younger you are, the faster you heal. The most ideal time to remove a wisdom tooth is between the ages of 15-22, when the root of the tooth is not fully developed. Wisdom teeth can sometimes grow in sideways, or have a big curve in the root, which can make the surgery more difficult. In addition, there are usually less complications, such as lingering numbness or jaw fracture, when wisdom teeth are removed at a younger age.