Wisdom Teeth & Tooth Extractions

In a perfect world, every jaw would be the ideal size to accommodate all 32 teeth that the average person has by about the age of 18. After all, each tooth has a name and specific function. However, that is seldom the case and wisdom teeth usually need to be extracted.

Most people’s jaws can comfortably fit 28 teeth, 14 on the upper and 14 on the lower. It can be painful when another 4 teeth try to squeeze their way in.

These other teeth are your third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth”. The term “wisdom” comes from the idea that the molars erupt or surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”, usually between the ages of 17 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat.

What Happens When There is Not Enough Room for Wisdom Teeth?

Often times, there is simply not enough room for the wisdom teeth to surface through the jawbone or gums. If so, the teeth—some or all of 4 of them—become “impacted”.
There are several types, or degrees, of impaction based on the actual depth of the teeth in the jaw:

Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.
Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection easily occurs.
Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. The crowding can cause a great deal of pain.

What are the Signs of Needing Wisdom Teeth Extraction?

Wisdom teeth are usually removed to resolve a problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection, or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future.  Any or all of the following may be signs of problems with your wisdom teeth. Extracting these teeth will allow you to avoid costly, painful and dangerous problems like these:

Tooth Crowding:  Impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth, causing them to become misaligned or crowded. The result is often disrupted natural or orthodontic alignment.
Damage to nearby teeth: Second molars (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be harmed by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and even bone loss.
Disease: Cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
Infection: Bacteria and food can get trapped under the gum tissue, causing infection. Because the problem is not visible, infection can go undiagnosed for too long and cause considerable pain and danger.

Preventative measures are usually best. We recommend early removal of impacted wisdom teeth to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk of the procedure.

What is the First Step?

As with any procedure, Dr. Jones will first perform an examination of all your teeth, wisdom teeth included. A panoramic x-ray will allow him to evaluate the position of your wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists and/or if you are at risk for potential future problems. X-rays can reveal other risk factors, too, like deterioration or decay of surrounding teeth. A thorough examination will allow the doctor to provide you with the best options for your unique case.

What Does Wisdom Teeth Removal Involve?

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure we perform right here in our office on an outpatient basis. It is generally performed under intravenous (IV) sedation, but for less complicated extractions, we can complete the procedure under local anesthesia or with nitrous oxide. Either way, our staff is experienced in all anesthesia techniques and utilizes modern monitoring equipment. Surgery can be managed comfortably in an hour. To help you handle any swelling or discomfort, we will release you with our thorough post-operative instructions and medication. Of course, we are available for ongoing support for any of your questions or concerns, as well.