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Between the ages of 17 and 25, most individuals' third set of molars, more commonly known as wisdom teeth, erupt from the jaw. Unlike other teeth, these four molars are not necessary to proper oral function, and they are routinely extracted because of complications. Dr. Andrew R. Glenn is a skilled oral surgeon, and offers safe, gentle wisdom teeth removal at our Lincoln office. If you or your child has received a recommendation to undergo wisdom tooth extraction, or are bothered by symptoms like jaw pain and swelling, contact our practice to schedule an appointment today.
When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth? There has been a shift in recent years towards removing teeth at a younger age, before wisdom teeth become problematic. Younger people, particularly teenagers, are having their wisdom teeth pulled to minimize pain and complications. With innovative imagining and techniques, Dr. Glenn and his team can make your wisdom tooth extraction supremely comfortable.
Including wisdom teeth, a typical adult mouth has 32 teeth. Unfortunately, most adults' mouths can only accommodate 28 teeth. For some patients, all four wisdom teeth may grow in straight and comfortably, generating no discomfort and posing no threat to surrounding teeth. Usually, however, wisdom teeth have little room to erupt on the dental ridge, or fail to grow in at a proper angle, which can push surrounding teeth out of place and lead to a host of dental health issues, including pain and discomfort.
If a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully erupt from the gum line, the gum tissue surrounding the partially-erupted tooth can harbor excessive amounts of bacteria, and a serious infection can occur. In severe cases, a cyst or abscess (pocket of infection) can form around the tooth, and can damage the jawbone and teeth that surround it. Unlike routine single tooth extraction, oral surgery is often needed to successfully remove the molars.
Impacted wisdom teeth are classified according to the nature of their growth. A few common complications include:
Bony impaction: A bony impaction means the wisdom tooth was not able to grow out of the jawbone. Bony impactions are difficult to extract because the tooth has not even reached the soft tissue. All impacted wisdom teeth are either bony impactions or soft tissue impactions.
Soft tissue impaction: When the tooth tries to erupt, but becomes stuck in the gum tissue before it finishes growing, the impaction is characterized as a soft tissue impaction. Although you cannot see the impacted tooth, it can still hurt and disrupt dental alignment.
Partial eruption/impaction: A third molar becomes impacted when it is obstructed by a neighboring tooth and cannot fully erupt. Bacteria and food debris can lodge underneath the edges of the gum tissue opening, and a severe infection can develop, causing pain and threatening overall oral health.
Horizontal impaction: A horizontal impaction describes a wisdom tooth that has grown sideways within the jawbone. Rather than growing vertically towards the gum line, the tooth is likely growing directly toward existing teeth.
Mesial/Distal impaction: A mesial impaction occurs when the tooth angles toward existing teeth, which pushes these teeth out of place and leads to discomfort and pain. In contrast, a distal impaction describes a tooth that is angled away from other teeth.
To determine whether you or your child qualifies for wisdom teeth removal, Dr. Glenn will perform a thorough and comprehensive examination, evaluating the position of the wisdom teeth. Your general dentist may recommend a preemptive evaluation during the mid-teen years to detect potential problems with the wisdom teeth.
On average, about 80% of teens (usually around age 17) require wisdom teeth removal, which is easier to accomplish early, before the teeth are fully formed. All wisdom teeth extractions are performed under local anesthesia, and many patients can benefit from sedation dentistry with general anesthesia for a more comfortable, relaxed experience. After the surgery, we’ll provide personalized postoperative instructions for care, prescriptions for pain medications and antibiotics, and a follow-up appointment, usually within a week, to remove the sutures in the gums.
Wisdom teeth are a common nuisance that can become much more serious if they are left untreated. Dr. Glenn can help prevent dental discomfort and damage by preemptively removing wisdom teeth before they have a chance to compromise your smile. If your general dentist has recommended you or your child have their wisdom teeth removed, or if you are seeking treatment for related symptoms, schedule a consultation with Dr. Glenn today.