Years ago, when humans foraged and hunted for their food and didn’t have access to the cultivated and processed foods that we have now, they needed the third molars for a couple of functions. First of all, the large chewing surfaces helped our ancient ancestors process their rough and fibrous diet. Secondly, the third molars served as replacement teeth to fill in for other teeth that were invariably lost due to lack of oral hygiene practices or overuse.
As humans have evolved, though, not only have our diets gotten softer in texture, but our jaws have gotten smaller, as well. In most people’s mouths, there simply is not enough space for the wisdom teeth to erupt properly. As such, they become impacted – or trapped in the bone or gum tissue.
Impacted wisdom teeth can become problematic in a number of ways. They are more likely to harbor bacteria, especially due to their location in the back of the mouth, which is tough to reach and clean thoroughly. Impacted wisdom teeth also are more susceptible to developing cysts and tumors, and they can knock the other teeth out of alignment as they continue to attempt to push through the gums.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it must be extracted. Your oral surgeon will need to first remove bone and/or gum tissue in order to access the tooth. Impacted teeth cannot be removed via simple extraction. It is recommended that patients have their wisdom teeth removed by their mid-twenties, as the procedure becomes more complex and results in lengthier recovery timeframes in older patients.
Do you have all of the facts that you need to make a decision about wisdom tooth extraction? If not, come to our office for a consultation to learn the specifics of your case.