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Wisdom teeth/3rd Molar FAQ

At what age do I need to have my wisdom teeth evaluated?

Wisdom teeth usually begin to erupt through the gums between the ages of 18 to 24. As humans have evolved, many of us just don't have room for our third molars. This lack of space often leads to impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can be oriented horizontally, rotated, and even vertically impacted. We recommend having your wisdom teeth evaluated at the age of 18. In an ideal world, the roots of the 3rd molar are only two-thirds developed. This allows the tooth to be extracted easier. An example of this can be seen above! As we age, the jaw bone becomes more dense. That is why we recommend to have your wisdom teeth evaluated early!

What problems can arise from impacted wisdom teeth?

If wisdom teeth become impacted and only a portion of the tooth sticks out above the gums, this can lead to Pericoronitis. This is the infection of the gum tissue surrounding the wisdom tooth. Food debris and bacteria gets stuck underneath the exposed gum-tissue. It can be nearly impossible to clean this area. Pericoronitis is very painful and can occur frequently. Another problem that often arises from an impacted wisdom tooth is bone-loss between the neighboring tooth. This leads to food impaction and decay on the 2nd molar. The decay that is formed on the 2nd molar is usually near the root of the tooth. This may render the tooth unrestorable and lead to the extraction of both the 3rd AND 2nd molar. Yikes!!!

Will it hurt? Should I be put to sleep?

You will be numb during the procedure. However, some patients don't wish to experience the procedure. Your options for sedation include laughing gas, oral sedation, and IV sedation. If you have high dental anxiety, be sure to ask your doctor about sedation options. Post-operatively, pain can be variable. The tougher the extraction, the more post-op pain. That is why you should never wait to have your wisdom teeth extracted!

Does everyone get their wisdom teeth? And do they always need to be extracted?

Not everyone gets all four wisdom teeth. Some patients may have NO wisdom teeth, some may have only one to three wisdom teeth. A panoramic radiographic can determine exactly how many are present (shown above).

If a patient has excellent hygiene (being able to brush and floss their wisdom teeth), is able to open WIDE should their wisdom teeth need work done (fillings, root canals, crowns), and their wisdom teeth have come in straight, then those patients do not need to have their wisdom teeth extracted. These patients are few and far between. Unfortunately, the majority of people don't qualify. :(

-Dr. Daniel Saffo

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