What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Your third molars (most commonly known as Wisdom Teeth) are the last teeth to erupt into your mouth. Wisdom teeth usually erupt during your late teens or early twenties. Often they are impacted. This means that they are unable to get through the dense bone of the jaw and overlying gum tissue, many times due to limited space in your mouth. This lack of space seems to be because modern man has a smaller jaw than people from ancient times. Nine out of ten people have at least one wisdom tooth that remains underneath the gum due to lack of space in the mouth.
Why Do I Have Wisdom Teeth?
Early humans had a tough abrasive diet that included hulls from coarse grain and bits of stone from the processing techniques that they used. Needless to say, early humans needed more teeth and more chewing power to sustain themselves.
Why Should I Remove My Wisdom Teeth?
As you approach your late teens your jawbone has grown to nearly its adult size. Often the adult size is still not large enough to accommodate the developing wisdom teeth. In this case, your teeth become trapped in the bone and grow wherever they can. As the tooth grows, it may remain completely covered by bone or may partially break through the gum exposing the crown (or chewing surface) of the tooth. As the tooth continues to develop, so do the roots associated with the tooth. The tooth’s roots hold the tooth in place. They may become misshapen or extend dangerously close to the nerve located in the jaw or to a sinus cavity.
If your wisdom teeth erupt through the gum or partially erupt, they are often hard to keep clean. This can put you at a high risk of decay and infection. Also, you may be unaware that your wisdom teeth are pushing on adjacent teeth. This pressure may cause the teeth to shift. You may not even know that you have wisdom teeth if they are impacted. The onset of sudden pain may be caused by an impacted wisdom tooth or may indicate infection of surrounding gum tissue and bone, or pressure on an adjacent tooth.
Additionally, impacted teeth can develop cysts or tumors that can become enlarged over time and destroy the jaw bone and adjacent teeth. Like the wisdom teeth they are associated with, you may have no symptoms to indicate their presence. Usually, these cysts or tumors can be identified on a Panorex x-ray. Further evaluation of an abnormal wisdom tooth or an associated cyst with a Cone Beam CT Scan can assist in determining the best treatment plan.
When Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Evaluated?
It is usually recommended that a Panorex X-ray is taken by your dentist, orthodontist, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon around the age of 14 to 16 to evaluate for possible impacted wisdom teeth, and predict if there may be present or future problems associated with the wisdom teeth. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment results in a superior outcome for the patient by decreasing the difficulty of the extractions and lowering the possible risks associated with the surgery.