1. Health

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Learn About Your Wisdom Teeth and Why They May Need Removal

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Updated March 01, 2010

Why is wisdom teeth removal necessary? Some of us are unaffected by them, others develop painful conditions that require their immediate removal. It is not always a wise decision to keep your wisdom teeth. Find out why they may need to be removed, and where to find them in your mouth.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

The third molars, known simply as wisdom teeth, erupt between the ages of 17 and 21 years old. The average person's mouth will comfortably hold 28 of the 32 teeth we are predisposed to have. Since the wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt, there is often little room left to accommodate their size and anatomy.

During your check-up, your dentist may take a orthopantomogram x-ray to diagnose the need for their removal. This x-ray gives the dentist a clear view of the area around the wisdom teeth, to determine the type of extraction necessary for each tooth.

If you require surgery to remove your wisdom teeth, it is helpful to prepare yourself and your home before your appointment for a speedy recovery.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth are extracted because:

  • They are erupting in to an abnormal position, such as tilted, sideways or twisted.
  • They are trapped below the gum line due to lack of space.
  • An infection has developed from trapped food, plaque and bacteria, known as pericoronitis.
  • The way the patients teeth bite together has changed, causing misalignment of the jaws.
  • The erupted wisdom tooth lacks proper hygiene, because it is hard to reach, resulting in tooth decay.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in dental surgery. Your dentist may choose to refer you to see a surgeon for your extractions. The most common reason for this is because of where the wisdom teeth are positioned and the difficulty level of the extraction.

How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

After any elected methods of sedation have started to take effect, the oral surgeon or dentist will start the procedure by:

  • Numbing the tooth and tissues in the area of the mouth, where the wisdom teeth are located, with local anesthetic.
  • Any tissue and bone that is covering the tooth will be removed with the appropriate surgical instruments.
  • Extraction instruments are used to loosen the tooth from any connective tissue in the tooth's socket.
  • Once the tooth is loose enough, the dentist removes it with dental forceps.

It may be necessary for the dentist to use stitches to close the tissue to aide in the healing process. Follow all of the instructions after surgery for a full recovery.

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Sources:

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery- "Wisdom Teeth"

The Canadian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons- "Wisdom Teeth"

Colgate World of Care- "Tooth Removal/Tooth Extractions"

The University of Maryland Medical Center- "Impacted Tooth"

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