Do I Need a Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

A Conversation with Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. C.C. Lai

Wisdom teeth (third molars) are the last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth.  They come in between the ages of 17~25, a time of life that has been called the "Age of Wisdom."  When a Wisdom tooth is unable to break through the gums properly, it is said to be “impacted.”  According to American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 90% of people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.  Doctors strongly recommend that wisdom teeth be evaluated by an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMS).

When Should I Extract my Wisdom Tooth?

Impacted wisdom teeth have many side effects and it is recommended that patients have them removed sooner than later.  Research has demonstrated that wisdom teeth should ideally be removed between the ages of 18~24 years as patients in this age group typically experience the fastest recovery than older patients. If you experience symptoms such as jaw pain, gum tenderness, swelling, bleeding around your rear jaw area, you should seek dental attention immediately.  In some cases a problematic impacted tooth may be asymptomatic, so it is always best to have your dentist periodically monitor the conditions of your wisdom teeth.

What if I don't do Anything?

The worst thing to do is ignore your wisdom teeth.  Even if you practice excellent oral hygiene, it is still important for a dentist to examine your wisdom teeth and determine if it’s time to have them removed.  Rarely do all wisdom teeth erupt fully into the mouth without issue.  Their placement location makes it challenging for patients to maintain proper health of the teeth and gum.  If left in the mouth, impacted wisdom teeth may damage neighboring teeth, become infected, and possibly lead to gum disease and bone loss.  Oral bacteria may travel to your bloodstream, where it may lead to systemic infections that affect the heart, kidneys and other organs.  In some cases, a cyst or tumor can form around the base of the impacted tooth, which can damage surrounding nerves, teeth and other parts of your mouth and face.  For most patients, wisdom tooth extraction is a matter of “when” and not “if.” 

Can any Dentist Extract my Wisdom Tooth?

An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS) specializes in removing impacted wisdom teeth and much more.  After dental school, OMFS pursues extensive years of advanced education in hospital-based surgical residency programs.  While most dentists can perform tooth extractions, patients with impacted wisdom teeth are advised to seek an OMFS for surgical tooth removal.  Additionally, patients with certain medications or health issues may necessitate a referral to an OMFS.  When a dentist refers patients to an OMFS for tooth extraction, it is to ensure the tooth is removed or managed with the highest level of expertise

Information Source: American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

 

Dr. Chun-Chen Lai

OMFS, NCKU

Oral Maxillofacial Surgery
Wisdom Tooth Extraction

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