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Your Wisdom Teeth: Is Extraction Right for You?

dental xrayYou might think that children only teethe during infancy and then again as permanent teeth come in to replace the baby teeth, generally between the ages of 6 and 13 or so. What you might not realize is that young adults have a third period of tooth growth. This is usually around the ages of 18 to 22, when the third molars, or wisdom teeth, grow in. Wisdom teeth are often extracted for various reasons, but it’s not always necessary. If you aren’t sure whether extraction is the right option for your third molars, take a look at these considerations and then talk to your dentist about making the right choice for you.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Often, the wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to erupt where they are supposed to, which is behind the second molars (the ones that grew in when you were about 12 years old). If they don’t form properly, then can be impacted. They can be bone-impacted, which means that they are stuck under your bone and will not come in at all. Or they can be tissue-impacted which means that they’ve come through the bone but haven’t come all the way through the gums. Sometimes a tooth is partially impacted, meaning that it came through the gums part of the way, but the other part of the tooth is still stuck underneath tissue.

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause an infection. Or they can stay in place, causing no problems for a lifetime. There’s no way to be sure what your teeth will do, but your dentist can give you an educated guess to help you decide whether they are likely to cause problems later.

Crowding and Tooth Damage

Sometimes, wisdom teeth come in and push other teeth out of the way. Other times, they damage the tooth directly in front of them. This is because often the mouth is not large enough for a third set of molars to erupt without causing issues with the teeth that are already there. If your wisdom teeth begin to come in and crowd your second molars, your dentist will likely recommend extracting them as soon as feasible to minimize the damage.

Your Age Makes a Difference

Some dentists like to take out wisdom teeth during the teen years, before the teeth have a chance to develop fully. This prevents the third molars from damaging the root of the second molars or causing other problems. Other dentists prefer to take them out between the ages of 18 and 24, when they’re most likely to either come in or show themselves as impacted. They can also be removed later, either all at once or one at a time, but the risk for complications seems to go up in older patients.

Discuss with your dentist whether you should have your wisdom teeth removed and how to best handle the procedure. Many patients choose to be sedated and to have them all removed at once. Other patients prefer to have local anesthetic and to have one or two out at a time. Talk about your preferences and which method would be best in your particular case. Please give our office a call if you’d like to make a consultation appointment to discuss your options.

Creative Commons image by Andy Li.

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