Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of molars. Most of the people get wisdom teeth or third molars in their late teens or early twenties. In very rare cases, these molars can be healthy and aligned properly. In such situations, they can be a very helpful asset to the oral cavity. But most of the time, this is not the case. These teeth are generally misaligned and are necessary to remove.

When they are misaligned, these teeth offer potential difficulties. Their position may become horizontal, with angle towards or away from the second molars or even inward or outward. Misalignment of these teeth can brought about crowding of or damage to neighbouring teeth, the jawbone or nerves. When they are inclined towards the second molars, they make the later more prone to decay by collecting plaque and debris. Sometimes they may be completely trapped within the soft tissue of the gums and/or jawbone. Or sometimes they may erupt only partially through the gums. Partially or completed trapped teeth within the gums or jawbone are called ‘impacted’. Partially erupted wisdom teeth allow an entry to bacteria to cause infection. The infection leads to pain, swelling, stiffness of jaw, and general illness. These partially erupted wisdom teeth are also more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum problems, because of their hard-to-access location and crooked positioning which makes brushing or flossing difficult.

If you think that you have a wisdom tooth, you should visit your dentist to confirm its presence. The dentist may take an x-ray at regular intervals to determine the presence and positioning of your wisdom teeth. The dentist may even send you to an oral surgeon for more detailed evaluation.

Generally, as these teeth are misaligned or fully or partially erupted, the dentist may advise you to remove them. This is done even if there is not any complication, to prevent future problems. As the roots of the teeth grow with age, they take a firmer grip and then at the time of complications, they become hard to extract. Studies show that once the individual crosses the age of 30, wisdom tooth extraction becomes more and more difficult. In younger individuals, the roots of the wisdom teeth are not fully grown and the bone too is less compact. Therefore, their extraction is easier. On the contrary, in older individuals it is more complicated. In older persons, the time required for recovery and healing too is longer.

The ease of the extraction of these teeth depends directly on their position. Your dentist or oral surgeon will make a pre-extraction examination and can tell you what to expect. If the wisdom tooth is fully come out of the gum, it can be removed as easily as your other teeth. But if it is partially or fully hidden inside the gums or inside the jawbone, there will be a requirement for an incision in the gums and then removal of a part of the jawbone lying over that tooth. Many times, in such conditions, the tooth is cut first into pieces and then the pieces are removed instead of removing the tooth as a whole. This minimizes the amount of bone needed to be removed, during the wisdom teeth extraction.