3rd Molar Surgery

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Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth. They come in between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life that has been called the "Age of Wisdom." Taking advantage of the fact that eruption occurs prior to full root formation, wisdom tooth extraction can often be accomplished through a simple, atraumatic procedure.

What's an impacted tooth?

When a tooth is unable to fully enter the mouth, it is said to be "impacted." In general, impacted teeth are unable to break through the gums because there is not enough room. Nine out of ten people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.

How serious is it?

If left in the mouth, impacted wisdom teeth may damage neighboring teeth, or become infected. Because the third molar area of the mouth is difficult to clean, it is a site that invites the bacteria that leads to gum disease. Furthermore, oral bacteria may travel from your mouth through the bloodstream, where it may lead to possible systemic infections and illnesses that affect the heart, kidneys and other organs.

Research has shown that once periodontal disease is established in the third molar areas, the problem is persistent and progressive, but may improve following extraction of the teeth.

In some cases a fluid-filled cyst or tumor may form around the base of the untreated wisdom tooth. As the cyst grows it may lead to more serious problems as it hollows out the jaw and damages surrounding nerves, teeth and other structures.

My tooth hasn't caused any problems?

Many people believe that as long as they are not currently in pain, they do not have to worry about their wisdom teeth. Often patients will experience mild pain early in the the eruption process which will later subside. However, pain-free does not necessarily translate into disease-free. The surrounding tissues may become infected and swollen throughout the patient's life. Also, wisdom teeth that come in normally are still the teeth most prone to cavities and gum disease, according to a study by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Therefore, it is important that your dentist monitors the health of your wisdom teeth during your annual dental check-ups.

In general, dental and medical professionals agree that wisdom teeth should always be removed in the following instances:

  • infections and/or periodontal disease
  • cavities that cannot be restored
  • pathologies such as cysts, and tumors
  • damage to neighboring teeth

Wisdom teeth that are completely erupted and functional, painless, cavity-free, in a hygienic environment with healthy gum tissue, and are disease-free teeth may not require extraction. They do, however, require regular, professional cleaning, annual check-ups and periodic radiographs to monitor for any changes.

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Information courtesy of AAOMS