Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the last teeth to erupt. They usually develop around the age of 17, although it can be as late as the early twenties in some people. The common term “wisdom teeth” refers to the fact that a person is an adult, or nearly so, before these teeth develop. In some cases, wisdom teeth develop properly and cause no problems. However, more frequently, they are misaligned or even impacted, and require extraction.
Any tooth can become impacted, though it occurs most commonly with wisdom teeth. An impacted tooth is one that does not have enough room to develop completely, because it is too far back or other teeth are crowding it. Humans today have smaller jaws than our ancestors did, rarely leaving room for the third molars. The tooth will still grow to full size, but it may turn sideways or push itself downward to make room. It does not completely erupt or break through the gum tissue. Sometimes only a small portion of it, or none at all is exposed.
Impacted teeth can be painful and endanger your oral health because they crowd the neighboring teeth, nerves, and other nearby tissues. This can cause jaw problems, bone damage, tooth fractures, and more. Additionally, partial tooth eruption creates an opening where bacteria can enter, causing an infection around the tooth, resulting in jaw stiffness, swelling, pain, and overall illness.
If you have a wisdom tooth that is impacted, or likely to become impacted, your dentist will probably recommend extraction. The procedure for removing a wisdom tooth varies, depending on its location and position. In some cases, it may be no different from a standard tooth. However, if it is covered by soft tissue, an incision will be needed for your dentist to gain access. This is known as a surgical extraction.
If you have concerns about wisdom teeth, visit one of Esquire Dental Centres’ three convenient locations in Scarborough, Pickering, or North York. After a comprehensive oral examination, your doctor will explain the nature and severity of the problem, and recommend the best solution.