When to Remove Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars located in the very back of your mouth on either side. These are generally the last teeth to develop, coming in between the ages of 17 and 25. Since wisdom teeth do not generally develop until a person’s later teenage years, there are many cases when there is simply not enough space left in the mouth for them to effectively grow. At this point, our dentists at Spokane Dental may recommend a removal.

How do I know when I have wisdom teeth?

Some people experience pain when their wisdom teeth start to come in, others feel nothing at all. Consult with Dr. Jonathon Smith about the possible position and presence of your wisdom teeth. He may advise periodic X-rays to evaluate the alignment and presence of your wisdom teeth.

Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Wisdom teeth don’t always grow in properly; erupting through the gums, growing at various angles, and only partially coming through the gumline are just some of the issues you could experience. They may also position themselves angled outward, inward, horizontally, or away or toward the second molars. When this happens, it can potentially cause crowding and damage to your nerves, jawbone, and adjacent molars.

There are also instances in which your wisdom teeth remain completely hidden. When your wisdom teeth are not able to successfully erupt through the gums, they become trapped or impacted inside your jaw. At this point, removing wisdom teeth becomes necessary because conditions can cause inflammation, pain, and other complications within the mouth.

Your wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they are:

  • Full erupted (grown in completely)
  • Healthy
  • Biting properly and positioned correctly with opposing teeth
  • Easily cleaned during daily hygiene practices

What is an impacted wisdom tooth?

When a wisdom tooth is left untreated, the impacted tooth can cause severe pain and damage to your surrounding teeth. Since these wisdom teeth are located in the back of the mouth, they may be hard to reach when brushing, becoming susceptible to gum disease and decay.

Remember that bacteria derived from the mouth can enter the bloodstream causing further systemic infections that could affect the kidneys, heart, and other organs. If a wisdom tooth only partially erupts through the gums, this area can easily breed bacteria and lead to infections such as pericoronitis. Still other instances can cause cysts or impacted fluid-filled sacs, leading to serious damage to adjacent teeth and the jawbone.

When is the best time to have wisdom teeth removed?

When it comes to removing wisdom teeth the early the better, before they have had the chance to cause any problems. This is typically between the ages of 14 and 18. During these ages, the roots of your third molars have not fully formed and they can be extracted with lower risk and better, faster healing. The older a person is, the roots have finished fully formed and the bones are harder, making extraction riskier, more difficult, and prone to complications. Healing can also be delayed significantly.

Some dentists recommend the removal of wisdom teeth if they don’t fully emerge. Others feel as if it is better accomplished at a younger age, before the bone and roots have had the chance to fully form and recovery is fastest.

According the American Dental Association, wisdom absolutely have to be removed if you experience certain changes to these areas of your teeth, such as:

  • Pain
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Repeated infection of soft tissue
  • Fluid-filled sacs or cysts
  • Tumors
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay

What risks are associated with wisdom teeth removal?

Removal of wisdom teeth is often more complex than a simple extraction, especially when the teeth are impacted. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and the molar under the gums is removed section by section. If the tooth has been severely impacted, bone may also have to be removed. Potential risks can include permanent nerve damage and post-operative healing complications such as dry socket. When third molars have grown roots that are around or too close to the nerve of the lower lip, there is also a risk of permanent or temporary numbness of the lip.

What can I expect following my surgery?

In most wisdom tooth removal cases, the recovery period only last two to three days. Dr. Jonathon Smith pay prescribe painkillers to help ease the pain of the post oral surgery healing process. Pain during recovery can radiate intensely throughout the side of the face. Following your surgery, you will want to stay upright as much as possible, gently biting down on the gauze pad provided, and try to relax. You may be eating soft foods for a while, although straws should be avoided because they can affect the healing process.

Similarly to other dental problems, removing wisdom teeth is easier when conducted before any pain, damage to other teeth, or infections are experienced. Removing wisdom teeth before they cause any problems also leads to a faster recovery, although recovery time will ultimately vary from person to person.

What types of dentists do wisdom teeth removal?

Many people operate under the misconception that as long as they aren’t feeling any pain, they don’t have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, being pain free doesn’t always mean there isn’t a problem. In fact, the Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons strongly recommend an evaluation by a maxillofacial or oral surgeon by the time a person is a young adult.

How Spokane Dental Can Help

If you are located in the Washington area, Dr. Jonathon Smith has the experience to properly evaluate the presence of wisdom teeth and handle the management or treatment of your wisdom teeth extraction needs.

The decision to remove wisdom teeth isn’t always straightforward. Talk with our dentists and oral surgeon at Spokane Dental about the overall position and health of your wisdom teeth.