Thousands of years ago, our ancestors dined on a diet of coarse foods that included leaves, roots, nuts, and meat, causing excessive amounts of wear and tear on their teeth. As a result, human bodies evolved to include a third set of molars, which we refer to today as our wisdom teeth. While they may have been useful to our hunter/gatherer ancestors, our softer diet—and the modern marvel of utensils—has rendered these teeth more of a nuisance than a necessity.
The Potential Impacts of Wisdom Teeth
Most people see wisdom teeth begin to erupt, or grow out of the gums, between the ages of 17 and 25. Not everyone has a third set of molars, some people only have between one and three instead of all four, and sometimes even those who do have the teeth will never have them erupt from the gums.
Over time our jaws have evolved to become smaller, allowing the traditional 28 teeth to fit well, but not allowing much room for up to 32. If that is the case, you may experience problems resulting from your third molars, including:
- Teeth that become impacted, meaning there is not enough room for them to grow into your jaw. As a result they are misaligned and cause overcrowding in the jaw.
- Pain and swelling of the gums in the area of your third molars, indicating potential infection. This is especially true if the wisdom teeth have broken through the gums partially, trapping food or bacteria in the area.
- Wisdom teeth that do not grow in straight, causing other teeth in your mouth to move and shift around.
- Decay in the area surrounding the wisdom teeth. Their location so far back in the mouth can make them difficult to reach and properly clean, leading to poor oral health and eventual decay.
The Surgical Procedure
In order to remove your third molars, you will need to undergo some form of dental surgery. This may include only a local anesthetic, or a general anesthetic, depending on how many wisdom teeth you have, whether and how far they have erupted from the gums, and the anticipated difficulty of removing them.
Determining the Best Course of Action
Every patients has a unique situation when it comes to third molars, so it’s important to talk to Dr. Silverstein and Dr. Parker about wisdom teeth and whether you want to remove them, what process will be best (dental surgery or extractions), the best age or time to have the dental surgery. Other information about wisdom teeth removal you should discuss with Dr. Silverstein and Dr. Parker includes surgical preparations, healing time, and proper care for your gums and mouth following the surgery.