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Wisdom Teeth

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What are wisdom teeth?
A:  Wisdom teeth are molars (back teeth) which normally erupt through the gums at the so- called "age of wisdom" or 18 years of age.  They are also called "third molars" because they appear as the third set of molar teeth in adults. 

Q:  Why do we remove wisdom teeth?
A:  Wisdom teeth are often removed before they cause serious problems.  One of the primary reasons wisdom teeth are removed is because there is simply not enough room in the mouth to accommodate them.  When this happens, they may erupt partway into the mouth and stop, or they may lean forward at an angle to the neighboring tooth.  This can put the neighboring tooth at risk for tooth decay and gum disease.  Infections caused by wisdom teeth can be very serious, even life-threatening, so if these conditions are diagnosed by the dentist, removal of the wisdom teeth is recommended.

Q:  Should all wisdom teeth be removed?
A:  No, there are many instances where wisdom teeth do not require removal  Some wisdom teeth erupt with plenty of space to allow them to function normally.  Other wisdom teeth may not erupt through the jawbone at all.  In many of these cases, extraction is unnecessary.  However, in most patients, these patterns seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Q:  How do I know if I need my wisdom teeth out?
A:  ASK YOUR DENTIST!!!!  The best way to find out what's going on with your wisdom teeth is to have a diagnostic x-ray taken and evaluated by your dentist.  If the dentist finds that your wisdom teeth are in an unfavorable position, are infected, or decayed, it may be time to have them removed.  The most optimal age for wisdom tooth removal is between the ages of 16 and 18, while the teeth are still in the process of developing.

Q:  What is the recovery time after having wisdom teeth extracted?
A:  Most people take a pain reliever for the first three days or so.  This depends on your individual pain tolerance and how closely you follow your post-op instructions.  If you are careful what you eat and how much you talk over the first two days you should have a fast recovery.  Swelling from the surgery will reach its maximum about two days after the appointment then slowly recede.  By the time we meet for a one week follow-up exam, most patients have little or no discomfort.