Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often, they require removal.
Wisdom teeth present potential problems when they are misaligned-they can position themselves horizontally, be angled toward or away from the second molars, or be angled inward or outward. In addition, they can be entrapped completely within the soft tissue and/or the jawbone or only partially break through (erupt) through the gum. Teeth that remain partially or completely entrapped within the soft tissue and /or the jawbone are called “impacted.”
The removal, or extraction, of wisdom teeth is generally recommended when:
- The jaw isn’t large enough to allow all the wisdom teeth to fully erupt in a correct alignment.
- Wisdom teeth only partially erupt. This allows bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Poor alignment of wisdom teeth crowds or damages adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or nerves.
- Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) form, which can destroy surrounding teeth, the jawbone, and nerves.
The relative ease with which Dr. Geare can extract your wisdom teeth depends on your situation. A wisdom tooth that is fully erupted through the gum can be extracted as easily as any other tooth. However, a wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums or embedded in the jawbone requires an incision into the gums and then removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth.
Often, the tooth will be extracted in small sections rather than in one piece to minimize the amount of bone that needs to be removed to get the tooth out.