Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the molars furthest back in your mouth. They typically appear around 15-16 for girls, and 17-18 for boys. Oral surgeons typically extract wisdom teeth, although general dentists can extract them as well. Most times, the patient is given a mild sedative to make the procedure faster and more comfortable. Extracting wisdom teeth under sedation typically takes about 30 minutes, and recovery takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on the difficulty of the case and the age of the patient.
There is some debate in dentistry about extracting wisdom teeth. Some dentists believe that all wisdom teeth should be extracted regardless of the condition of the teeth or location in the mouth. Other dentists (including Dr. Dugas) believe each patient should be evaluated to determine if extracting the wisdom teeth is the best option.
There are many cases where the patient has plenty of room for the teeth, and no cavities are present. This may be a good instance to leave the wisdom teeth. In other cases, the patient may have a small mouth or cavities on the wisdom teeth. This may indicate a need to extract the wisdom teeth.
Another factor to consider is if the wisdom teeth are impacted. There are 3 types of impacted wisdom teeth:
1) Soft-tissue impacted: these are teeth that have erupted through the bone, but have not erupted through the gums. These are generally very easy to remove.
2) Partial-bony impacted: these are teeth that have partially erupted through the bone, but not completely. There is still a small amount of jawbone covering a portion of the tooth. In order for these to be removed, the dentist or oral surgeon would have to cut through the small amount of bone to get to the teeth.
3) Full-bony impacted: these are wisdom teeth that are fully covered in bone and have not erupted. In order to remove them, the dentist or oral surgeon has to cut through a thick layer of bone. These are the most involved and difficult type of wisdom tooth extraction.
There are also variations of the above-listed impactions, such as teeth that are impacted 90 degrees sideways (called a horizontal impaction). When your dentist reviews your x-rays, he/she will indicate how many wisdom teeth (some are congenitally missing) your child has and what type of impaction, if any.
If you have questions or concerns about wisdom teeth, consult with your dentist. He/she will evaluate the teeth, assess their location and discuss with you your options. If your wisdom teeth are causing pain, it may be time to consider having them extracted!