Also called third molars, wisdom teeth usually make their first appearance in young adults between the ages of 17 and 21. Usually, an initial evaluation of the wisdom teeth should be performed between the ages of 16 and 19. Because most mouths are too small for these four additional molars, an extraction (removal) procedure is often necessary.
The following signs and symptoms may indicate that the wisdom teeth have erupted and surfaced, and should be removed before they cause more serious problems. The wisdom teeth may be partially erupted, meaning the teeth have partially surfaced and have no room in the mouth to come in completely. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:
Infection in the mouth
Swelling of the gumline in the back of the mouth
Completely impacted teeth have not come through the gum and may never erupt into the mouth. If they are not causing problems or potential problems, many dentists will opt to monitor them over time. If the wisdom teeth are causing problems or are likely to cause problems, most oral health specialists will recommend immediate removal of the teeth to help eliminate problems, such as an impacted tooth that causes the roots of the second molar to dissolve, According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, third molar impaction is the most prevalent medical developmental disorder.
Some problems associated with impacted third molars include the following:
Bacteria and plaque buildup
Cyst development (a fluid-filled sac)
Jaw and gum disease
Decay or root resorption of the adjacent tooth
Wisdom tooth extraction surgery involves making an incision through the gum tissue that presides over the tooth, gently detaching the connective tissue between the tooth and the bone, removing the tooth, and suturing (sewing) the opening in the gum. Occasionally, some bone surrounding the impacted tooth needs to be removed to allow the tooth to be extracted. Also, the tooth may need to be cut into sections to remove it.
Most wisdom teeth extractions are performed in the dentist's office under local anesthesia. People who are particularly anxious should consult their dentist or oral surgeon about supplements to local anesthesia or alternative forms of anesthesia.