Wisdom teeth are the 3rd set of molars that erupt around the age of 16-20. Typically, there are four wisdom teeth, one in each quadrant. In some cases, any of these third molars may be congenitally missing; meaning never there, and in rare cases, there can be more than 4. If all four of the third molars are present, the total number of teeth in a full adult dentition is 32.
Wisdom teeth are recommended to be removed for several reasons. Often, they just don’t fit. If the molar doesn’t have enough space to erupt into the mouth, they are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to inflammation and infection. Impacted wisdom teeth can be trapped in the jawbone or the gums, and will stop erupting when there is no room to come through. If a portion of the wisdom tooth is protruding through the gum, it is difficult to keep clean, and bacteria from the mouth can cause an infection. Also, wisdom teeth may sometimes grow at the wrong angle and cause issues with the adjacent teeth when erupting. If left, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to infection, cavities and jaw pain.
Depending on how complicated the extractions are, you will either see your regular dentist or an oral surgeon for the removal(s). A referral to an oral surgeon is made depending on the comfort level of your dentist, whether the extractions are complicated, or if you are nervous about the procedure. You will have some numbing in the area of the extraction, or you will have some drowsy medication and general aesthetic to put you to sleep for the procedure. During the process, the teeth will be removed using several different tools. If the wisdom teeth are under the gums, there will be a small incision to access the teeth. If there is an incision made, stitches will be used that will dissolve away a few days after surgery.