Get Smart about Wisdom Teeth?

A lot of people have questions about wisdom teeth and why they so often need to be extracted. Here is information that can help you understand more about these sometimes troublesome teeth.

Your third molars are commonly known as wisdom teeth. They got that name because they usually come in when a person is more mature, between the ages of 17 and 21. By that time, most people already have 28 teeth in their mouth. And that’s about all the average mouth is made to hold. When wisdom teeth come in and align properly, and the gum tissue is healthy, they don’t have to be removed. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t what happens. 

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What are impacted wisdom teeth?

Many people develop impacted wisdom teeth, which are teeth that don’t have enough room to come into the mouth and grow normally. They may do any of the following:

  • Come in only partially, barely breaking through the gum, or not erupt through the gum at all
  • Grow in at an angle toward the next tooth, even if they haven’t come through the gum
  • Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
  • Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is “lying down” within the jawbone
  • Grow up or down like the other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone1

Why are impacted wisdom teeth such a problem?

When wisdom teeth aren’t in the right position, they can allow food to become trapped. When that happens, cavity-causing bacteria has an ideal place to grow. Wisdom teeth that are out of position can also make it hard to floss between them and the molars next door. In addition, when a wisdom tooth only partially breaks through the gum, it gives bacteria an entryway to the gums and creates a place for infection to occur. This can lead to pain, swelling and stiffness in your jaw. Wisdom teeth that don’t have room to come through may crowd or cause damage to neighboring teeth.2 The most serious problem occurs when an impacted wisdom tooth forms a cyst on or near the tooth. It can damage the roots of nearby teeth or even destroy the bone that supports your teeth.3

When it is time for them to go?

Although every patient’s situation is different, wisdom teeth should be extracted when they begin causing problems such as pain, infection, cysts, damage to neighboring teeth, gum disease or tooth decay. In addition, your dentist may recommend removal as part of treatment with braces or other dental care. Before any decision is made, however, your dentist will examine your mouth carefully and take an X-ray to see if the wisdom teeth are causing any problems under the gum.

Do I really need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

Even if impacted wisdom teeth are not found to be causing serious problems at the moment, early removal is usually recommended to avoid such problems in the future. Serious complications from removal rarely happen in younger adults. Older adults may experience difficulty with surgery and complications after surgery.

Who removes wisdom teeth?

A dentist at Mortenson Family Dental may perform the procedure in the office. But if your teeth are deeply impacted, or the extraction is expected to be more complex, your dentist will refer you to an expert at our oral surgery partner, Oral & Facial Surgery Group.

What if you keep your wisdom teeth?

If you decide not to have your wisdom teeth removed, or if you want to take a wait-and-see approach, careful monitoring by you and your dentist is extremely important. The potential for developing problems later still exists. So be vigilant. Floss around your wisdom teeth every day and visit your dentist regularly so he or she can evaluate your wisdom teeth and overall dental health.

We are honored to serve so many patients and communities in Kentucky and Indiana. Our dental professionals are committed to helping you and your family achieve happy, healthy smiles that will last a lifetime.


1 Colgate Oral Care Center 2 American Dental Association 3 Oral & Facial Surgery Group

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