Wisdom teeth, officially referred to as third molars, are usually the last teeth to develop. They are upper and lower teeth whose function is to grind food as part of the digestive process. They are located in the very back of your mouth, next to your second (or twelve year) molars and near the entrance to your throat. They usually complete development between the ages of 15 and 20, a time traditionally associated with the onset of maturity and the attainment of Wisdom.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE THEM REMOVED?
Although most people develop and grow 32 permanent, adult teeth (16 in the upper and 16 in the lower jaw), many do not have enough room in their mouth for all of these teeth to completely erupt. Since the wisdom teeth are the last to develop, they often will not have enough room to adequately erupt into the mouth to become fully functional and cleanable teeth. This lack of room or space can result in a number of harmful effects on your overall dental health. When this occurs they are said to be impacted, indicating their inability to erupt into an alignment that will allow them to be able to function in the chewing process.
There are several types of impactions:
SOFT TISSUE IMPACTIONS
There is adequate jawbone to allow the wisdom tooth to erupt but NOT enough room to allow the gum tissue to recede to allow adequate cleaning of the tooth.
PARTIAL BONY IMPACTIONS
There is enough space to allow the Wisdom tooth to partially erupt. It cannot function in the chewing process and creates cleaning problems.
COMPLETE BONY IMPACTIONS
There is NO space for the tooth to erupt. It remains totally below the jawbone or if even partially visible requires complex removal techniques.
DIFFICULT COMPLETE BONY IMPACTIONS
The impacted Wisdom tooth is in an unusual and difficult to remove position. This situation can also arise when the shape of the jawbone and other facial structures make removal of this tooth significantly more difficult.
Without enough room for total eruption, the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth can become irritated and infected, resulting in recurrent pain, swelling and problems with chewing and swallowing.
If there is inadequate room to clean around the wisdom tooth, the tooth directly in front, the Second Molar, can be adversely affected resulting in gum disease (bone loss) or cavities (more appropriately known as dental caries or decay).
Non-infectious diseases can also arise in association with an impacted wisdom tooth. Cysts are fluid-filled 'balloons' inside the jawbone which are associated with impacted wisdom teeth and slowly expand destroying adjacent jawbone and occasionally teeth. They can be very difficult to treat if your wisdom teeth are not removed in your teenage years. Although rare, tumors can be associated with the delayed removal of wisdom teeth.
Although controversial, many feel that impacted wisdom teeth directly contribute to crowding of your teeth which is most noticeable in the front teeth, usually the lower front teeth. This is most commonly seen after a patient has had braces. There are most likely a number of factors that cause teeth to crowd after braces or in early adulthood and retained, impacted wisdom teeth are likely to play a contributory role. Although wisdom tooth removal cannot be recommended solely to avoid crowding, it can be recommended to absolutely eliminate their possible role in future crowding and other bite changes.
Unless you have an active problem at the time of your consultation, the reason for removal is primarily preventative to avoid long-term problems. There is a lower chance of complications and long-term problems if wisdom teeth are removed before they start to hurt. By the time wisdom teeth become symptomatic, damage may have already occurred.