Michael W. Golding, MD, is a maxillofacial surgeon on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 234-9118.
Question: I’ve never really understood why some people have their wisdom teeth while others have them removed. Why is it that wisdom teeth are removed, and what’s involved in the procedure?
Answer: Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are generally removed to address an existing dental problem, or to prevent potential problems from occurring.
The most common problem is impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted teeth occur when there isn’t enough room in the mouth for these teeth to grow normally, causing them to become positioned at awkward angles. This is not only painful at times, but can also damage surrounding teeth and their roots, can cause a serious infection, or develop into a cyst or tumor.
Some people have enough room in their mouths for their wisdom teeth to come in normally. However, although these teeth may seem fine, they can cause crowding and pressure on surrounding teeth over time which, in some cases, may require orthodontic treatment to correct.
The presence of wisdom teeth can also make it challenging to reach and properly care for the surrounding teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Accordingly, the removal of wisdom teeth is usually the preferred course of action. Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is a routine procedure that is performed on an outpatient basis by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia or deep sedation and typically is thirty to forty-five minutes in duration. During the procedure incisions are made in the gums to allow for the surgical removal of the teeth. How easy the teeth are removed depends on their position, as well as the length and shape of the roots. Once the teeth are removed, the wounds are stitched closed.
Patients can expect temporary swelling and minimal discomfort following the procedure. However, these effects are relatively mild and can be well-managed with cold compresses and prescribed pain medication.
If have not had your wisdom teeth removed and are interested in getting more information on the procedure and if you are a candidate you should speak with your dentist or local oral and maxillofacial surgeon.