Annual Oral Health Section
Where Do Wisdom Teeth Fit In?
The average adult has 32 teeth, each with a unique shape and function. Teeth toward the front of the mouth (incisors, canines, and bicuspids) grasp food. In the back, you have two sets of molars, which grind food into manageable sizes for swallowing. Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the final four permanent teeth to erupt through the gumline behind the existing molars. Although most permanent teeth arrive between the ages of 6 and 12, wisdom teeth often come in between ages 17 to 25. Because they are the last set of teeth to grow in, they are often impacted, meaning there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them to fit properly.
Why Should You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
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 oral and maxillofacial 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 oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss whether general anesthesia (“going to sleep”) or local anesthesia (numbing around the site) is appropriate for your case. Your specialist will review 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, if necessary, be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to ensure your mouth is properly healing. HS