Wisdom Teeth Overview

The third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the last teeth to erupt in a person’s mouth. They earned their nickname because they come through the gums in the late teens or early twenties—“the age of wisdom.” Unfortunately, these teeth can become problematic because most people’s jaws are no longer wide enough to accommodate them.

Purpose of Third Molars

Thousands of years ago, early humans actually needed and used their third molars. They had to chew and process foods that were much rougher than the largely refined diet that humans have today. Additionally, in prehistoric times, the teeth were more likely to wear out or fall out, creating more space for the third molars.

The wisdom teeth are no longer necessary for chewing, and we keep our teeth longer because oral hygiene has improved. This leaves little room for these third molars—which are large in comparison to the other teeth—to emerge. Consequently, they often become impacted, either remaining in the jawbone or emerging only partially.

Potential Problems

Wisdom teeth present a host of potential problems for patients. They can cause pain and discomfort, and abscesses, cysts and even tumors may develop in impacted third molars. Because it’s so difficult to keep partially erupted wisdom teeth clean, bacteria settle in, causing infection, tooth decay or gum disease.

Even when they do erupt completely, third molars can still cause trouble. When the jaw does not have enough room for all 32 teeth, the third molars can cause crowding of the other teeth when they come through, or they may damage the jawbone or nerves in the rear of the mouth.

Why Consider Extraction?

Because they are prone to becoming impacted, they must be removed surgically in the vast majority of patients. It is recommended that patients tackle wisdom tooth removal before age 25. After that point, the roots are more thoroughly developed and they get more entrenched in the jawbone, making it more difficult to extract them.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons typically perform this procedure, as they have undergone extensive training to develop expertise in surgical extractions of this nature. Dr. Partridge and his staff have amassed decades of experience in wisdom tooth extraction, and they have refined their technique to ensure maximum patient comfort. Anesthesia and sedation also help patients to achieve that goal.

This type of tooth extraction is typically an outpatient procedure completed in the oral surgeon’s office. The extraction will be very similar to the routine extraction of any tooth. Alternatively, if teeth are impacted, the procedure will be more complex and time-consuming.

If you still have your wisdom teeth, contact our office to schedule an initial appointment with Dr. Partridge to begin the process of planning for their extraction.