Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear in the mouth. They are the third row of molars that typically appear between the ages of 17 and 21. Called “wisdom teeth” due to the fact that they come in relatively later in life, they can create a host of dental and oral health problems if they don’t have ample room to grow. Dentist Ricardo Hernandez at the Pacific Beach Smile Studio would like to educate you about some of the basics of wisdom teeth and signs of potential problems.
Possible Signs of a Problem
Some of the warning signs that your wisdom teeth may not be growing properly include:
- Growing in at odd angles, sometimes even horizontally
- Only partially emerged from the gums (i.e., partially erupted)
- Impacted or trapped within the jaw
- Pain and repeated infection of the soft tissues behind the lower last tooth
- Cysts and/or tumors
- Damage to adjacent teeth
- Gum disease
Studies have shown that the majority of Americans wind up having their wisdom teeth removed — many just as the teeth are starting to grow.
Wisdom Teeth Removal
Some dentists elect to remove wisdom teeth when they are not fully emerged or when they grow near the nerve in the lower jaw, while others prefer to remove them before the roots are fully formed. A patient’s age also factors in, as younger patients tend to have faster recovery following surgery.
The extraction of wisdom teeth is one of the few procedures in the U.S. that is commonly done as a preventive measure. While studies show that up to 80 percent of people who don’t have their wisdom teeth extracted eventually develop problems with them, some countries, like those in the U.K., have shifted to an extraction policy based on whether a patient is experiencing current problems, rather than removing the teeth in anticipation of problems. Nearly all dentists concur that if there is recurring gum infection (pericoronitis,) irreparable tooth decay, abscess, cysts, tumors or damage to nearby teeth or bone, then removal is the best option.
Wisdom Teeth and Braces
Patients with braces and patients planning to get braces or Invisalign prior to the eruption of the wisdom teeth should check with a dentist about special issues relating to the timing of getting their braces. While research has indicated that wisdom teeth generally do not impact tooth spacing after braces have been worn, it is wise to review your options with your dental health care providers.
Contact Dr. Ricardo Hernandez
Dr. Hernandez is always available to talk about wisdom teeth. If you have a question or concern, don’t hesitate to contact our practice at (858) 272-6047.