Wisdom teeth are not some magical teeth in your mouth giving you smarts; they are the last set of molars to erupt in your mouth. This eruption of your wisdom teeth usually occurs from age 16 to 20. As is usually the case with things that come last, there is often not enough room for them. The teeth that came in before them often overcrowd wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth can even become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are those that become trapped beneath the gum tissue by the other teeth in the mouth or by the bone. The individual may feel discomfort or swelling when they have impacted wisdom teeth.
Even if your wisdom teeth come in they may only emerge partway through the gum or come in crooked. The American Dental Association recommends that if wisdom teeth are impacted or causing crowding they can be removed more easily before age 20 than if they are removed later in life. An oral surgeon can remove wisdom teeth by general anesthesia, or by using a local anesthesia such as Novocain®.
Wisdom teeth that are impacted crooked or causing crowding can be removed by dental extraction at the dentist office or oral surgeon’s office. The three types of impaction are angular, horizontal and vertical.
There are a few lucky people who are born without wisdom teeth or they are fortunate and their wisdom teeth come in and do not cause any problems but most of us suffer some difficulties when the wisdom teeth come in. Occasionally part of the wisdom tooth is covered by a flap of gum, allowing food particles and bacteria to become trapped, leading to irritation and infection. This flap usually happens with the lower wisdom teeth.
Dental X-rays can detect impacted wisdom teeth even if the individual has no symptoms and feels no discomfort. Your dentist is likely to start following the movement of your wisdom teeth during your teens and early twenties by taking periodic X-rays.
Wisdom teeth if left in, can cause many problems in the future such as decay, crowding or damage to other teeth, development of a cyst that can damage nerves, bone and teeth as well as infection. Because it is easier to remove wisdom teeth before age twenty, dentist often recommend removing them early even if they are not causing any problems at the time.
Dentists have also found that extracting the wisdom teeth before dental problems have developed means less recovery time for the individual and less pain and discomfort after the extraction. Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed though, so your dentist will examine your mouth and teeth, as well as take x-rays to make this determination.