When the term "wisdom teeth" pops up, one might immediately envision viral post-extraction videos, often equal parts hilarious and cringe-worthy. But have you ever pondered the reasons behind the necessity of wisdom teeth removal?
Wisdom teeth, situated at the back of the mouth, represent the third and final set of molars. Typically, four wisdom teeth emerge between the ages of 17 and 25, with two on the top and two on the bottom (one per side). However, genetics and environmental factors can lead to variations, with some individuals developing only a few or none at all.
As human anatomy has evolved, the oral cavity has undergone a reduction in size, rendering wisdom teeth non-essential. The lack of space can result in complications during their growth. When space constraints cause wisdom teeth to become impacted or stuck in the bone, pericoronitis—an infection around the erupting tooth—can ensue, causing intense pain. If left untreated, the infection may extend into the surrounding bone and soft tissues of the head and neck.
Insufficient space for wisdom teeth can also lead to the entrapment of food and bacteria between the wisdom tooth and the second molar in front. This scenario increases the risk of periodontitis, bone loss, and decay in the second molar.
While some individuals may have adequate space for their wisdom teeth without causing issues or disrupting oral hygiene, extraction may not be obligatory in such cases.
Indications that wisdom teeth removal might be necessary include jaw pain or pressure, migraines, difficulty in mouth opening, or bad breath.
If you suspect the eruption of your wisdom teeth, a dental examination is crucial. A panoramic radiograph, a two-dimensional X-ray, can reveal the initial formation of wisdom teeth in the bone, even in patients as young as six. Based on this information, a dentist can monitor development and determine the appropriate course of action.
Initially, the dentist evaluates the wisdom tooth, and if the procedure seems complex, they may refer you to a specialist. For straightforward extractions, local anesthesia and laughing gas may suffice. In cases where the teeth are embedded in the bone and a more aggressive approach is needed, the surgeon may opt for general anesthesia. The dentist or surgeon will clarify the process and anesthesia method during the initial consultation, tailored to your specific case.