For most patients, wisdom teeth represent something between a minor inconvenience and a major headache. Otherwise known as third molars, they usually erupt around the age of eighteen, though the exact time frame is variable. They are the most commonly congenitally missing tooth, with many patients having three, two or none. Wisdom teeth also commonly exhibit abnormal anatomy, such as extra cusps or small size.
The most common problem associated with wisdom teeth is impacted eruption. Here, as the molars erupt they contact the adjacent teeth, preventing them from growing into their anatomically correct positions. This becomes a problem as they create cavity prone food traps, which can lead to infection or damage to the second molars. Even if the wisdom teeth grow in properly, they are difficult to keep clean and commonly develop decay. Typically, dentists will not place large fillings or crowns on wisdom teeth, but rather recommend extraction.
Wisdom teeth are usually extracted by oral surgeons, due to their position in the back of the mouth and tricky anatomy. The roots of third molars can touch or wrap around the inferior alveolar nerve, making nerve damage to the teeth, gums and chin a possible complication. In the United States, wisdom teeth are usually taken out under sedation, so that the patient is more comfortable throughout the procedure. However, this is not a necessary part of their removal.
A referral for wisdom teeth extraction is usually made by a general dentist after a full check-up and necessary x-rays. The oral surgeon will typically have one consultation appointment for an exam and panoramic x-ray and another for the actual surgery. If you are concerned about your wisdom teeth or any other part of your oral health, please call our office to schedule an appointment.