Your Wisdom Teeth


If you’re a teen who’s 13 or older, you probably have most of your permanent, or adult teeth. The last of the permanent teeth to appear are called third molars or wisdom teeth. The usually begin to erupt, pushing their way through gums, between ages 17 and 21.

Wisdom teeth that are healthy and properly positioned can be an asset. For some teens, however, one or more of the four wisdom teeth may be missing, having never formed. In most cases, wisdom teeth remain impacted, trapped beneath the gum and bone and against teeth in front of them. They may partially erupt because the jaw can be crowded by other permanent teeth. The partially erupted teeth may tilt sideways and may cause damage to adjacent teeth.

Regular dental checkups are important not just for having your teeth cleaned but for allowing your dentist to track the progress and condition of your adult teeth. After examining your mouth and taking X-rays, your dentist can evaluate your wisdom teeth and discuss whether or not they should be removed.


Why Are Wisdom Teeth Sometimes Removed?

Because they are so far back in the mouth, wisdom teeth often are not needed for chewing and they are difficult to keep clean. Your dentist may recommend the early removal of impacted wisdom teeth to prevent against the potential complications of:

  • The wisdom tooth partially erupts through the gum. This creates an opening where bacteria may enter and cause infection. Pain, swelling and jaw stiffness may result.
  • The impacted wisdom tooth may continue growing without having enough room, which may damage adjacent teeth.
  • A fluid-filled sac (cyst) or tumor may form on or near the impacted tooth, destroying surrounding bone or tooth roots.

Is It Time To Have Your Wisdom Teeth Checked?

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What To Expect After Surgery

Medication prescribed by your dentist also can help relieve discomfort. You may be instructed to drink only clear liquids after the surgery until a time when you can begin to eat soft foods.

Some patients experience numbness or tingling in their face or jaw after surgery. Normal sensation usually returns in a period of time. A condition called dry socket occasionally occurs when the blood clot breaks down sooner than normal. If this happens, your dentist may place a special dressing in the tooth’s socket to protect it as it heals.

Talk to your dentist about any concerns or questions you have about the procedure. It’s especially important to tell your dentist, before surgery is scheduled, of any illness that you have and of all medications that you are taking whether they are prescription or over-the-counter drugs. If your general dentist refers you to a specialist, they will work together to provide you with the best and most efficient care.