Third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the last teeth to erupt and are the furthest teeth in the back of the mouth. Nearly 85% of American adults do not have their wisdom teeth. Some people do not have wisdom teeth at all while others will never see them erupt due to lack of space. Wisdom teeth without enough space to erupt are left trapped in the jaw or are only able to partially erupt.
Even if they do erupt without issue, few adults are able to reach far back enough to keep wisdom teeth properly brushed and flossed to avoid cavities and gum disease. Due to the location of the wisdom teeth, it is also difficult to completely remove decay caused by cavities. Because of the tooth’s location near the jaw-joint, it is difficult to see if all the decay has been removed or keep the tooth dry enough to retain a filling. Gum disease is difficult to treat around wisdom teeth which can cause bone loss, bad breath, and can spread further into the mouth.
Opinions will vary greatly from dentist to dentist regarding wisdom teeth extraction. If only one or two teeth are being extracted, some patients opt to have the extraction completed in the dental office. Other patients will opt to have the extraction done by an oral surgeon under anesthetic.
Extraction is easier and causes less pain if it takes place before teeth are completely developed. Some patients have their wisdom teeth removed as early as between ages 7 and 17. This process known as a germectomy, is performed when the teeth roots are less than 1/3 formed. Complications from germectomy are no greater than when extraction is completed at the most commonly recommended age for removal between the ages of 18 and 24. Between 18 and 24, the roots are still not fully formed making the extraction possible with usually little risk for complication. Most dentists and oral surgeons prefer to complete the extraction at this stage of early adulthood due to it being clinically easier. It is easier to perform the extraction on young adult patients because of their ability to tolerate the pain and because they have a larger mouth.
Wisdom teeth extraction is a problem that many patients will tolerate until the pain becomes severe. If you are experiencing any pain at all or notice your wisdom teeth having difficulty erupting, please give our office a call.