At RB Dental Excellence, one of the things we check for during every comprehensive exam is the placement, development, and health of your wisdom teeth.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think much about your wisdom teeth until they start to hurt. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider having your wisdom teeth removed. Understanding what wisdom teeth are, why they sometimes cause problems, and how the removal process itself will work can make all the difference when planning for oral surgery.
What are wisdom teeth?
Your wisdom teeth are the third set of molars in your mouth, and usually the last teeth to come in. The first two sets of molars normally erupt around ages 6 and 12, respectively. But wisdom teeth usually start to come in until your mid-teens or even late 20s. They can often be impacted, meaning they don’t break through your gums or only erupt partially, which can cause problems like pain or infection.
Most people will have four wisdom teeth; however, some people may only have a few or none at all.
Why might I need my wisdom teeth removed?
Some people have their wisdom teeth removed to prevent future complications, while others do it to manage pain and swelling.
Impacted wisdom teeth are teeth that are unable to break through the gums or grow normally in the mouth because of a lack of space. When this happens, an impacted wisdom tooth can cause damage to the surrounding teeth or jawbone. Additionally, a partially erupted/impacted tooth can raise your chances of developing periodontal disease, as a result of food particles lodging in the space between the tooth and gum tissue.
Removing your wisdom teeth helps preserve the health of your surrounding smile.
What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
An impacted wisdom tooth is when your third molar does not have enough room to erupt through the bone or gum tissue around it. Because wisdom teeth are located at the back of your mouth, they often get “stuck” behind the other teeth in that space. At other times, the wisdom tooth grows sideways, backward, or at an angle into the jaw, preventing a normal tooth eruption.
Some people even have additional teeth behind their wisdom teeth (a condition we call “supernumerary teeth”) that need to be removed during your oral surgery.
When is it best to have wisdom teeth removed?
The timing of when wisdom teeth erupt can vary greatly from person to person, but they generally tend to “come in” between 17-25 years of age. Our San Diego dentists recommend removing wisdom teeth at the earliest onset of symptoms, especially if the tooth is already infected. We can monitor the development of your third molars to check for issues like cysts, impaction, or damage to adjacent teeth so that treatment can be administered before complications develop.
Am I ever too old to have wisdom teeth removed?
While it’s best to have them removed early before complications or infections develop, it is not unusual for someone who has had no symptoms at all with their wisdom teeth until much later on in life (40+). Wisdom tooth removal can be performed any time an adult patient presents with a problem such as pain or infection around their back teeth.
However, chances are that if your wisdom teeth erupt properly and you’re able to keep them clean, you may be able to go your whole life never needing to have them removed. By scheduling regular checkups every six months, we can monitor the health of all of your teeth to provide preventative, early interceptive strategies that limit your risk of preventable dental issues.
How long is the recovery from a wisdom tooth removal?
You may need up to one or two weeks before your mouth feels back to normal after a wisdom tooth removal surgery. However, most people feel well enough to return to work or school within 3-4 days. We encourage you to contact our office if swelling, redness, or comfort worsens. In the meantime, get plenty of rest, stick to soft foods, and stay hydrated with plenty of water (but don’t drink through a straw.)
Wisdom Tooth Consultations in San Diego
RB Dental Excellence offers comprehensive exams, wisdom tooth evaluations, and oral surgery consultations at our office near Rancho Bernardo. If you or your teen is experiencing wisdom tooth pain or swelling, contact us to reserve an appointment.