Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars are the last teeth to erupt in our dentition. Wisdom teeth were very useful back in the days when we were eating raw meat. Now as the human body has changed with evolution, there is not always the room to have all of our 32 teeth. It is not unusual these days to see young people missing one, two or all of their wisdom teeth. They are simply congenitally absent.

The eruption of wisdom teeth usually occurs in the late teens or early twenties. Since a lot of people don’t have room for their third molars, a lot of problems can occur while your wisdom teeth erupt.

Many of the third molars may become impacted because of the lack of space. Impacted is the term we give to wisdom teeth when they do not have sufficient space to erupt. They can remain under the gums and may never actually erupt. Wisdom teeth may also be semi impacted; where only a portion of the tooth has erupted above the gumline.

The treatment:

You first need a complete examination with your dentist and x-rays in order to determine if you will need to extract your wisdom teeth or if it’s ok to leave them be. Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. A panoramic x-ray is usually taken around 16-17 years of age to see how they are positioned.

When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may be in an unusual position which explains why it’s not erupting. Because of the many unusual positions it can take, there are risks that it may cause a cavity to occur in the adjacent tooth (the second molar) or it may cause the root of that tooth to resorb itself. To prevent any damage to the second molar, an extraction is usually recommended. Impacted teeth are to be watched if they are left untouched. They put you at risk of developing pathologies like cysts and tumours.

When a third molar is semi-impacted, there is an increased risk of infection. Bacteria or food debris can get under the gum tissue over top of the partially erupted tooth and cause an infection to the gums or even a cavity on the third molar. In this situation, extraction of your wisdom teeth may be the best solution.

An individual diagnostic is made for each tooth, not all teeth need extraction.

Your regular dentist may not feel comfortable removing your wisdom teeth. It may be that your teeth are too close to the nerves that run along your bottom jaw or too close to your sinuses. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist, an oral surgeon, who has extensive training in dealing with these delicate situations.