Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth. They come in between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life that has been called the "Age of Wisdom."
Wisdom teeth may not need to be extracted if they grow in completely, are functional, painless, cavity-free, disease-free, and in a hygenic environment with healthy gum tissue. They do, however, require regular, professional cleaning, annual check-ups and periodic X-rays to monitor for any changes.
However, removal of the wisdom tooth is indicated if the tooth has partially erupted through the gingival tissue causing inflammation and at times infection. The wisdom tooth can also erupt at an angle such that the adjacent molar can become difficult to keep clean and free of dental caries. If the third molar has erupted through the tissue but is without opposing occlusion (contact with other teeth), extraction should still be considered. Considering the posterior position of an erupted wisdom tooth, these teeth are often difficult to keep clean. In some cases, a cyst or tumor can form around the base of the impacted tooth, which can lead to more serious problems as it hollows out the jaw and damages surrounding nerves, teeth and other parts of your mouth and face.
Generally, wisdom teeth should be surgically removed when there are:
- Do not grow in completely
- Infections and/or periodontal (gum) disease
- Cavities that can’t be restored
- Cysts, tumors or other pathologies
- Damage to neighboring teeth