Where Do Wisdom Teeth Fit In?
The average adult has 32 teeth, each uniquely shaped and assigned a specific function. Teeth toward the front of the mouth (incisors, canines, and bicuspids) grasp food. Back teeth (molars) grind food into manageable sizes for swallowing. The last of these teeth to grow in are third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, and these typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. Because they are the last set of teeth to grow in, they are often impacted (unable to erupt) due to a lack of space in the mouth or poor positioning.
Why Should You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
When wisdom teeth don’t erupt properly, they must be removed to prevent problems. In addition to the painful gums associated with impaction, bacteria can grow around wisdom teeth and cause an infection called pericoronitis, which is an inflammation around the soft tissue. Incoming wisdom teeth can also put pressure on surrounding teeth, leading to misalignment. In rare cases, cysts or tumors can grow around impacted wisdom teeth and cause deterioration in the jaw.
Signs It’s Time for Extraction
There are several symptoms associated with impacted wisdom teeth that may suggest it’s time to visit your dentist or oral surgeon. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, don’t wait to schedule your appointment.
- Swelling of the gums in the back of the mouth or side of the jaw
- Bad breath
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Pain or irritation when opening your mouth
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Headache or jaw ache
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
What is the Procedure Like?
When it’s time to get your wisdom teeth extracted, you and your dentist or oral surgeon will discuss whether general anesthesia (“going to sleep”) or local anesthesia (numbing around the site) is appropriate for your case. Your specialist will consult your X-rays to evaluate the best plan for removal and then complete the surgery in the office. Following the extraction, you will be given instructions for care and be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to ensure your mouth is properly healing.