What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third molars located at the very back of the mouth. They are the last teeth to develop, usually between the middle teenage years and the early twenties, a time in life when maturity and “wisdom” are acquired.
Most people do not have enough room in their mouth to accommodate the proper eruption of their wisdom teeth. This lack of space results in the teeth erupting partially, being angled incorrectly, or fully trapped under the gum and bone. Inappropriately positioned wisdom teeth are also referred to as impacted.
Why do wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause numerous negative health effects. Most commonly, local infection of the soft tissues surrounding the wisdom tooth produces the first symptoms. This infection can progress to the tissues of the face and neck, and in some rare instances, it can spread to the rest of the body. Poorly positioned wisdom teeth are not fully cleansable, resulting in cavities and gum disease in the wisdom tooth itself and, often, in the molar directly in front of it. Enlarging cysts or tumors can arise in association with impacted wisdom teeth. These pathologies are often painless in the beginning, but they destroy the surrounding jaw bone and can become very difficult to treat if the wisdom teeth are not removed in a timely manner.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
Wisdom teeth may not need to be extracted if they grow in completely, are functional, painless, cavity-free, pathology-free, and in a hygienic environment with healthy gum tissue. They do, however, require regular professional cleaning, annual check-ups, and periodic x-rays to monitor for any changes.