If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, you probably have some questions about your wisdom teeth. When do wisdom teeth come in? Do they always have to be removed? What are wisdom teeth, anyway? Below, we answer some of the most common questions patients have about wisdom teeth and extractions.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
The wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the very last pair of molars most people get. They erupt on both the upper and lower jaws. Scientists aren't completely sure why we get wisdom teeth, but it's most likely that they were initially meant to replace molars worn out by primitive diets; our diets have changed since then, but our wisdom teeth haven't, and they still form in our jaws around the age of 7.
When Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?
As mentioned above, wisdom teeth begin to form in childhood and usually erupt when we are young adults (17 to 21 years old for males and 16 to 18 years old for females), although they might erupt earlier or later depending on an individual's growth history. When wisdom teeth do not erupt, they are considered impacted. Other times, a wisdom tooth will erupt at an angle and become partially trapped below the gumline; this is called a partially impacted wisdom tooth.
Do Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?
No, wisdom teeth do not need to be removed; they only need to be extracted if they cause oral health issues. That said, it is uncommon for wisdom teeth to be healthy, so many young adults do have them removed.
Wisdom teeth are prone to cavities because they are difficult to reach when brushing and flossing since they are so far back in the mouth. They frequently erupt at an angle, resulting in misalignment, crowding, cyst formation, and bite issues. When wisdom teeth are fully or partially impacted, it can be especially painful, causing toothaches and pains, headaches, and jaw issues. Partially impacted teeth are also susceptible to infection.
What Happens During Wisdom Teeth Removal?
A wisdom tooth that is fully erupted requires only a simple extraction. This involves loosening the tooth with a tool called an elevator, then removing it from the jaw with forceps.
Impacted wisdom teeth are more difficult to remove than wisdom teeth that have fully erupted. A small incision near the wisdom tooth is required in the case of impaction in order to extract it from the jawbone.
What Kind of Anesthesia is Available for Wisdom Tooth Extraction?
In all circumstances, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the area surrounding your wisdom teeth to ensure that you do not experience any pain. We can provide a variety of sedation methods, including nitrous oxide and conscious oral sedation, for patients who are anxious.
What Is the Recovery Like for Wisdom Tooth Extraction?
This depends on how complicated your procedure is. You can expect more discomfort and a lengthier recovery time if your wisdom teeth are impacted. Bleeding, swelling, headaches, and discomfort are all frequent side effects, although they usually resolve after a week or two. Any discomfort you experience can usually be relieved with over-the-counter pain relievers. Warm saltwater rinses can also help ease soreness.
Are There Any Complications from Wisdom Teeth Removal?
The most common problem after wisdom tooth extraction is dry sockets. When a blood clot fails to develop in the wisdom tooth socket, or when a blood clot forms but becomes dislodged, dry socket is the result. Paresthesia, or nerve injury after surgery, is a rare side effect, but this usually resolves as the nerve heals. As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection.