Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Impacted Teeth: Wisdom Teeth

Impacted Teeth: Wisdom Teeth

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Xray of jaw

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars in the mouth. They tend to appear during the late teens or early twenties. Many people live their whole lives with healthy, fully developed wisdom teeth without pain. However, symptoms sometimes appear from the misalignment or impaction of wisdom teeth that commonly lead to the recommendation of extraction.

Misaligned wisdom teeth, often which are positioned horizontally or angled toward or away from the teeth, may cause damage to the other teeth or jaw or pain. Also, these teeth may be hard to clean because of their positioning, allowing plaque and other debris to build up, which can lead to decay or infection of the teeth or tissue.

Impacted wisdom teeth are those that either do not break out or remain trapped in the jawbone or surrounding tissue due to lack of space in the dental arch. Bacteria may build up around a partially erupted wisdom tooth, which may lead to an infection and painful swelling, stiffness of the jaw or other illnesses. Partially erupted teeth often are more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.

Removal of Wisdom Teeth

With the advancements in surgical and anesthesia techniques, extractions of wisdom teeth can normally be done on an outpatient basis in one of our oral and maxillofacial surgeon’s office. This procedure can be done under local anesthesia, general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. The ease of removal for the wisdom teeth depends on a number of variables, including root development and the position of the teeth. Some wisdom teeth may require a more involved surgical procedure.

Wisdom teeth should be removed before they begin to bother the patient, which can lead to a less complicated healing process. As the patient grows older, the wisdom teeth roots become longer, making it more difficult to remove the teeth and allowing for more complications. Additionally, researchers have found that older patients may be at risk for periodontal disease and other infections.

After the surgery, some swelling or mild discomfort may occur. Cold compresses may help the swelling and a prescription for pain may help with the discomfort. Also, a modified diet after surgery may be recommended.

Did You Know?

  • Extraction of wisdom teeth is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures.
  • The time of life between the ages of 17 and 25 is often called the “Age of Wisdom.”
  • It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of third molars will eventually need to be removed.

For more information about the removal of wisdom teeth or for a referral, please call 713-790-3333.