Wisdom Teeth Extractions
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25. When they align properly, and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully. The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.
In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly cysts or tumors.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of the teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves the problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with that procedure.
There are three types, or degrees, of impaction based on the actual depth of the teeth within the jaw:
- Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingival (gum) is covering part or the tooth’s entire crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.
- Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.
- Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.