Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth in the upper and lower dental arch. These molars generally start to make their way through into the mouth between the ages of 15 to 25. Many people ask why their wisdom teeth need to be extracted. The main reasons for extracting wisdom teeth are that they are impacted or they are problematic or could become problematic in the future.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it means that the tooth will not be able to erupt into a useful position in the mouth. The tooth could be stuck all the way in the jaw bone, partially in the jaw bone and partially in the gums, or stuck under the gums only. The placement of the wisdom teeth is evaluated using a special type of x-ray called a panoramic x-ray or panorex. This large radiograph is generally taken every 3 to 5 years to evaluate not only wisdom teeth but also all the teeth and surrounding bones and structures.
Sometimes a wisdom tooth almost comes into the mouth fully, but a flap of gum tissue called an operculum remains over the back of the tooth. Generally this is no problem, other times food debris and bacteria collect causing a condition known as pericoronitis which is inflammation of the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth. This painful situation can lead to an infection.
Another possible reason that a wisdom tooth may need extracted is the presence of a cyst, a fluid-filled sac that can damage surrounding bone. Left untreated, a cyst can continue to grown in size causing more damage.
Some wisdom teeth come in to the mouth in a functional position, but they are very difficult to keep clean in most cases. Now and then, wisdom teeth will need to be removed later in life due to tooth decay or periodontal disease.
Dr. Julie Pruneski is the dentist and owner of Whispering Pines Dental located at 690 Cooper Foster Park Road in Lorain, Ohio. Dr. Pruneski is a current member of the American Dental Association, Ohio Dental Association, Lorain County Dental Society, Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Implant Dentistry, and American Academy of Facial Esthetics. To reserve an appointment with Dr. Pruneski, call 440-282-2023. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whisperingpinesdental.