Wisdom Teeth


The average adult has thirty-two teeth by age eighteen: sixteen teeth on the top and sixteen teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces while the back teeth, or molar teeth, are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing. The last of these molars are called third molars or wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth. When they align properly, remain free of decay and the gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting into the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. This is referred to as being impacted. An impacted tooth is one that has not erupted or grown through the gum into the mouth or has grown partly through the gum. Any tooth can be impacted, but more often than not, impacted teeth are "wisdom teeth" or third molars. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully.

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 and pain. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of 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 these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure. Unfortunately, impacted teeth can be "dormant" for years but then cause trouble and pain at an unexpected and inconvenient time. These are some of the reasons why many orthodontists do not consider orthodontic treatment complete until the third molars have been removed and why most dentists recommend their removal even if they aren’t causing trouble now.

Our Doctors study the panoramic x-ray of the teeth and jaws and can frequently tell by the teen years if the wisdom teeth are going to be impacted. At this stage the roots are usually not yet fully formed in most people and the bone is less dense. Therefore, the wisdom teeth are less complicated to remove and healing is generally faster. Removal of impacted teeth is a surgical procedure. As with any surgical procedure the younger patients usually recover more rapidly and with less chance of complications.

Occasionally, post operative numbness of the lip and/or tongue may result because lower impacted teeth are near nerves. You will probably experience some swelling for a few days after surgery. All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Drs. Finger & Bennett have the training, license and experience to provide various types of anesthesia to allow patients to select the best alternative. These services are provided in an environment of optimum safety, utilizing modern monitoring equipment and staff experienced in anesthetic techniques.