Wisdom Tooth Extraction, Pain, and More

 “Wisdom comes with age.”

This is a common saying. Wisdom is usually a welcome effect of aging. Wisdom teeth usually start causing problems at about the time that we “come of age,” thus the name.

Learn more about the problems that necessitate wisdom tooth extraction.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

The third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth. By the time they come along the other teeth have typically taken up all the space in the jaws. If we look at our cave man relatives from thousands of years ago, we see that they had much larger jaws with room to hold all 32 teeth. It is speculated that the larger jaws were necessary because their diet required more powerful and muscular jaws for chewing.

In modern man, we have much smaller jaws but we still have the same 32 teeth. I do feel that before we had good dental care, the extra set of molars may very well have served a purpose as people would have likely lost molar teeth to dental disease by the time they were in their late teens. As other teeth were lost, the wisdom teeth might erupt into that space. We still see this in some cases today.

What is “Impacted?”

The word impacted means to be “wedged in or tightly packed.” When you have too many teeth for the length of your dental arch, the space is often inadequate for the teeth to come in, and your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend wisdom tooth extraction. The term impacted is sometimes used to refer to the relationship of the wisdom tooth to the bone or gums. In other cases, the term is used as part of a definition of what may be involved in the removal of the tooth.

What kinds of problems might I have if I delay wisdom tooth extraction?

  • Decay on the adjacent teeth.
  • Formation of cysts or tumors in the jaws
  • Periodontal bone loss and periodontal pockets on the second molar tooth with premature loss of the second molar.
  • Localized inflammation, pain, and infection

What is the Best Time for Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

The best time for impacted wisdom tooth extraction is when the crown is well-developed, but the roots are minimally developed. This usually occurs at about age 15. Sometimes we will treat patients earlier if they are well-developed or if it is part of a comprehensive treatment plan such as orthodontic care. Of course we remove wisdom teeth on people of all ages. My oldest patient for wisdom teeth so far was 104 years old. It is actually fairly common for us to treat elderly patients, as wisdom teeth that may have sat silently for years become problems as health diminishes.

Again, the best time for wisdom tooth extraction is in the mid-teen years. During this time, the roots are not well developed and the removal of these teeth is performed with much less risk. As you age, the roots more fully develop and the teeth become more bonded in the bone. Many patients tell us that they have been told to just “wait until they are bothering you.” This is bad advice as considerable damage can be done by the wisdom teeth before the patient experiences any traces of pain. Also, by the time many of these problems arise the patient may be older, have a diminished healing capacity, additional medical concerns, and a possible greater risk of complications.

Should I Pursue Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

At any age, if you still have your wisdom teeth, I would recommend considering having them removed from a preventative standpoint. It is a lot easier. Younger patients are generally healthier; they heal more rapidly with less postoperative discomfort and swelling, and with a lower risk of complications than older patients. From a social standpoint, life is also simpler at an early age, so it is normally advisable to remove these teeth early on.

If you want to decide if now is the right time to remove your wisdom teeth, request a consultation with Dr. Wagner. Call us at (262) 634-4646 to learn more.

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