Most people's "wisdom teeth" (which we call third molars) begin to erupt around the late teens or early twenties. These will be the third and final set of molars to come in. Occasionally third molars can come in correctly aligned and offer more chewing power. In this event, you may decide to keep your wisdom teeth as long as you can maintain proper hygiene. More often, they are misaligned and can crowd other teeth.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
A popular theory suggests that the human diet used to consist of more rough food like leaves, meat and roots which required better chewing power. There has also been a size reduction in the human jaw and face over the past 20,000 years.
More and more people born today never develop third molars.
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?
While not every patient needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, the common situations will likely warrant their removal.
1. Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When a third molar is "impacted" it means that gum tissue is completely covering the tooth and preventing it from erupting successfully through the gum. This is usually the result of a mouth that is too small to allow the room the teeth need. At times, this leads to bacteria or food getting lodged under the gums covering the wisdom tooth and can create an abscess.
2. Partially Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Partial impaction means the tooth is only partially emerged from the gums. In this case, we almost always advise removing the tooth. Again, bacteria can be lodged underneath and because of the location in the very back of the mouth, a wisdom tooth is more susceptible to cavities and decay.
3. Additional Reasons for Wisdom Tooth Removal
The following dental issues may also increase the likelihood that we recommend removal for your third molars.
- Pain at or surrounding the third molar(s)
- Pain or swelling in the jaw or cheek area
- Infections of the soft tissues
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Tumors or Cysts
If you are considering having your third molars removed, we are happy to consult with you on the topic. Dr. Kivel can address the health of your wisdom teeth, whether they have erupted and your overall oral health to determine the best next steps. Contact our Ashland, OR dental office to schedule an appointment with our friendly team.