What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or third
molars are the last teeth to develop in the mouth - usually
appearing behind the upper and lower second (or 12-year) molars.
They are called "wisdom teeth" because they usually
appear during a person's mid to late teens or early twenties
(which has historically been called the "age of wisdom").By
the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth; 16 teeth
on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth
has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of
the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal
for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back
teeth or molar teeth are used to grind food up into a consistency
suitable for swallowing.The average mouth is made to hold
only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit
in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth
are your Third Molars, also known as "wisdom teeth."
Must wisdom teeth always be removed?
No. In fact, wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth
when healthy and properly positioned.
Why Should I Remove My Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth.
When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom
teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does
not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary
when they are prevented from properly erupting within the
mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum
and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted
teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt
to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully.These
poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems.
When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth
allows bacteria to grow and eventually cause an infection
or damage to adjacent teeth. The result: swelling, stiffness,
pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth
may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural
alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors
or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting
in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal
of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves
these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. Geraets can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict
if there may be present or future problems. Studies have shown
that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome
for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in
The wisdom teeth are removed using
local anesthesia (novacaine) and I.V. Sedation.
IV Sedation (Twilight Sleep or Conscious Sedation)
allows for surgery to be performed in our office with little
or no discomfort. Local anesthesia (novocaine) will be used
to numb the teeth. I.V. drugs will then help you to relax
and have little or no memory of the surgery. This is the most
effective method to reduce awareness and anxiety.
*Some material on this page is courtesy of
the Academy of