Wisdom teeth are formally known as “the third molars,” but these teeth are called wisdom teeth because they appear in the mouth much later than all other teeth at an age when folks are supposedly much “wiser” than they were as a child when other teeth appear. The first molar erupts around the age of six, and the second molar around the age of 12. Wisdom teeth usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25.
Many people don’t have room in their mouth for their wisdom teeth. Some experience pain, discomfort or other symptoms prior to realizing they need wisdom tooth extraction. But wisdom tooth problems don’t always produce pain or noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it’s vitally important to schedule regular checkups with your dentist to ensure that you monitor your overall dental health and any potential issues with wisdom teeth that may be silently developing in your mouth.
When wisdom teeth do not have ample space to grow and come in properly, they create issues that can damage your other teeth. As a part of your routine dental care, your oral health care provider will perform x-rays or scans of your jaw to keep tabs on wisdom tooth development and detect other areas of concern. These scans can provide an early warning regarding pending wisdom tooth problems. Your oral care provider will be able to determine if wisdom teeth may cause future crowding, damage, abscesses or other difficulties.
Due to crowding and mouth shape, wisdom teeth often form and grow at odd angles, causing a variety of complications. Wisdom teeth can stay hidden in the jaw below bone and the gum line, becoming impacted and leading to tumors or cysts. Wisdom teeth can partially emerge through the gum line creating an area in the mouth that is hard to keep clean and is susceptible to cavities, decay, gum disease and other infection. Wisdom teeth – whether under the gum line or erupted – can push against other teeth causing crowding, pain and damage.
Some patients do have ample space in their mouth to allow for wisdom teeth to form and erupt properly without causing crowding or damage. But many need their wisdom teeth removed. So how do you know when it’s time? The most important thing to remember is to maintain a regular checkup schedule with your dentist. Your dentist will monitor your overall mouth health and wisdom tooth development through visual inspections, x-rays and scans. For younger patients, dentists and orthodontists may work together to monitor growth and development to determine the best timeline for wisdom tooth removal.
The best time to remove wisdom teeth is before they cause any pain or damage. Many oral health care providers recommend wisdom teeth removal when a patient is in their late teens – or even before – depending on the situation. Patients who have their wisdom teeth removed at this stage are not yet experiencing any negative side effects and are having them removed as a way to prevent future pain and damage.
If you did not have your wisdom teeth removed as a teen, don’t worry. Removal is still possible for older patients. Your dentist, orthodontist or oral health care provide will help you understand if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed. And it’s best not to ignore the advice of your dental health care provider. If you postpone suggested wisdom teeth removal, you are setting yourself up for pain, possible infection surrounding the wisdom teeth, gum disease and excessive, hard-to-treat tooth decay.
Wisdom tooth concerns develop slowly over time. By the time you feel discomfort, it’s probably well past time for your wisdom teeth to be removed. Regular checkups with your dentist will keep you informed about your overall dental health and the state or your wisdom teeth. And if you do need your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist can help refer you to an experienced oral surgeon that specializes in the procedure. Your oral surgeon can help to ensure that your procedure is as pain-free as possible, and will outline a plan of care to keep you comfortable as you recover from wisdom tooth removal.
Many oral surgeons even use the DentalVibe tool to make sure that you don’t feel the dental injection that will numb your mouth prior to the procedure. Your dentist’s office and oral surgeon’s office will work with you to make sure that you feel fully informed about the procedure, that you have a pain-free experience, and that you recover as quickly and completely as possible.
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