As the final set of molars, a person’s wisdom teeth usually come in between the ages of 17 to 25. We often hear about wisdom tooth removal, and that’s no wonder: according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine in ten people have at least one wisdom tooth that is impacted and needs to be removed. It’s best to extract wisdom teeth in younger patients, as patients over the age of 35 are at a greater risk for complications because wisdom teeth actually fuse to the jaw bone as we age.

Even if your wisdom teeth appear to have fully erupted and are not causing you any pain, they still may need to be removed.  To determine whether your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of the area and he or she will also take X-rays. If a wisdom tooth is impacted or misaligned, it could lead to sinus issues, infection, pain, or it could cause surrounding teeth to shift positions. Other conditions that may lead to wisdom tooth extraction include gum (periodontal) disease, cavities, cysts, tumors, and damage to surrounding teeth.

Wisdom tooth extraction varies from a simple procedure to full surgery under general anesthesia, depending on the position of the tooth. If a tooth is fully emerged, it can most likely be easily removed in the same manner in which your dentist would remove any other tooth.  If the tooth is impacted, it means it has not fully entered the mouth and it could be embedded in the jaw bone.

An impacted wisdom tooth is more difficult to remove, and may require the attention of an oral surgeon. Wisdom tooth extraction at this stage may require general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. During extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth, an incision is made in the gum to expose the tooth surface and any bone that covers the tooth will also need to be removed.  Wisdom teeth are often removed in small pieces in an effort to minimize damage to surrounding bone and tissue.

Following wisdom tooth extraction surgery, you may have some minor swelling and discomfort. Cold compresses can help reduce swelling, and your dentist or oral surgeon may also prescribe a pain medication to help keep you comfortable. To prevent infection of the socket left by the removed tooth, you may also be given dietary instructions. Many patients find that sticking to a diet of soft foods also decreases any discomfort that may be brought on by chewing.

Even if your wisdom teeth are healthy, they are in an area of the mouth that is particularly hard to clean and it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for a thorough cleaning and evaluation of the health of your wisdom molars and the rest of your teeth. Not sure if your wisdom teeth are causing a problem? Contact your dentist to schedule a consultation where they can be examined and you can learn more about wisdom tooth removal and whether it is right for you.

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

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According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine in ten people have at least one wisdom tooth that is impacted and needs to be removed.