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Wisdom Teeth


Our wisdom teeth are the last set of permanent teeth (third row of molars) to erupt in humans. The eruption usually occurs during the ages of 17-25 for most young adults. In most cases, adults only have four wisdom teeth. However, there have been cases where more have grown in, which are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

Wisdom teeth are tricky in a way that they are the only ones that consistently give people problems. Oftentimes, there isn’t enough room in the mouth for wisdom teeth. By the time they begin to erupt, all other teeth are set in place. Because of this, wisdom teeth tend to come in sideways, and are referred to as ‘impacted.’ For most patients, the only way to cure the pain, swelling and other problems associated with them, is wisdom tooth extraction.

Wisdom Teeth Complications

There are various complications that are associated with wisdom teeth, including:

  • Toothaches, severe pain within mouth
  • Impacted teeth
  • Partial eruption can lead to bacteria infections
  • Misalignment
  • Jaw pain and stiffness
  • After extraction, bleeding and extraction can occur
  • After extraction, blood clots form in dry sockets and can become dislodged
  • Swelling in the gums and surrounding tissues
  • Damage to the nerves after extraction occurs
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, nausea and vomiting

Impacted wisdom teeth can create many complications for a person. They can be painful, cause infections and even crowd or damage other teeth and roots. Impacted teeth can also develop a cyst around the tooth, which leads to damage of the surrounding tissues, jaw bone and adjacent teeth. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation, third molars (wisdom teeth) that break through tissue and erupt into the mouth normally, are still prone to disease and complications in the same way impacted teeth are.

Is Extraction the Only Option?

You will not be any less wise if you have your wisdom teeth extracted. In fact, it’s almost mandatory to have them removed, even if they don’t cause pain or if they grow in correctly. Many people feel that ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ However, when it comes to wisdom teeth, they can begin to cause damage internally. For example, wisdom teeth that are left in place begin to hollow out your jaw bone, causing possible irreversible damage. Dental professionals suggest having your wisdom teeth removed before your 17th birthday, even if they are not causing you noticeable problems.

Wisdom teeth are known to be easier to remove and recover from while the patient is younger. This is because the bones are softer and the roots are not completely formed. Also, younger patients have a lesser chance of damaging nearby nerves and other structures when the third molars are removed earlier. If you were to wait until the pain began or other complications arose, you will have a longer recovery time and problems with your jaw bone, nerves and roots are almost guaranteed.

Learn more about wisdom teeth removal >

Page updated September 2012



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