The third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the last to erupt, which typically happens by late adolescence. However, in a large number of patients, those teeth become impacted, which means that they must be removed by an experienced oral surgeon before significant problems with these impacted teeth occur.
When wisdom teeth fail to erupt properly, a number of problems can result. Because it is particularly challenging for patients to keep the gums around a wisdom tooth and third molar teeth clean, they can create a haven for infection-causing bacteria.
Impacted wisdom teeth may also cause patients discomfort and develop cysts and tumors. In their attempts to push through the gums, the wisdom teeth may also force the other teeth out of alignment.
To prevent such problems, patients should schedule a wisdom tooth extraction well before reaching age 25. Patients who wait to pursue wisdom tooth extraction until they are older may face a greater risk of complications. As the patient ages, the roots of the wisdom teeth grow longer and more entrenched in the jawbone, making the process of removing them more complex.
In younger patients, the roots are shorter and less developed. As a result, the wisdom tooth extraction procedure is more straightforward in teenagers and young adults.
Most patients have their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens or early twenties, but the need for extraction becomes clear earlier. Dr. Steven Koos, your Downtown Chicago oral surgeon, may identify a need for wisdom tooth extraction in patients as young as 12 years old in some cases. By that point, evidence gathered from x-rays and visual examination will often clearly demonstrate the case for wisdom teeth removal.
Over the years, the human jaw has become smaller and our teeth remain in our mouths for decades, rather than falling out periodically from extensive use in chewing a very rough diet. These changes have limited the modern-day jaw’s ability to accommodate the wisdom teeth, necessitating extraction in most patients.
In rare instances, the wisdom teeth may emerge in the proper alignment and extraction may not be necessary. However, it’s important for patients with wisdom teeth to be evaluated by an oral surgeon during their teen years to determine the status of the third molars. The “watch and wait” plan that some general dentists take can actually prove to be very harmful, misguided advice.
To learn more about wisdom tooth extraction in Chicago, and surrounding Chicago-land suburbs, contact ORA® Oral Surgery & Implant Studio at 312-328-9000.