Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars. They usually begin to emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. Frequently, the jaw is not large enough to allow complete eruption of wisdom teeth, and they become trapped or impacted.
Common signs of impacted or partially erupted wisdom teeth include the following:
- Pain, swelling, or tenderness around the gums of the impacted tooth
- Pain or swelling around the jaw
- Difficulty opening the jaw called trismus
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste when biting down or near the area
- Prolonged headache or jaw ache
Impacted wisdom teeth that are not removed can cause numerous problems. These problems include the following:
- Pericornitis—Bacteria and food can get trapped under a flap of gum tissue that covers a partially erupted wisdom tooth, resulting in an infection that spreads to the surrounding tissues. Pericornitis can be extremely painful and often requires treatment with antibiotics. Pericornitis will recur until the wisdom tooth is removed.
- Gum disease—When a tooth cannot be properly cleaned, the accumulation of bacteria found in dental plaque will cause a low grade infection, resulting in bone loss associated with periodontal disease. Bone loss around a wisdom tooth jeopardizes the bone supporting the adjacent molar, and in severe cases, both teeth could be lost to gum disease.
- Decay—Because of their location, it is difficult to properly clean wisdom teeth, making them particularly vulnerable to decay.
- Cysts—The crown of a wisdom tooth grows in a sac. If the sac remains in the jawbone, it can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the jawbone, teeth, and nerves.
- Crowding—Wisdom teeth may cause movement of other teeth, particularly front teeth, as they try to erupt.
It is recommended that wisdom teeth be removed between the ages of 14 and 22 as a preventative measure to the problems previously mentioned. Surgery is easier and patients recover more quickly when they are younger.
At Health First Dental, patients can choose to have dental sedation to make the extraction procedures more comfortable and relaxing.