Teeth erupt into the mouth in a specific sequence and pattern during childhood and adolescence. Our jaws, in most cases, are only large enough to accommodate 28 teeth. However, there are 32 teeth in the normal adult mouth. The last four teeth to develop are called the third molars, but most people refer to them as “Wisdom Teeth”. The wisdom teeth typically begin to erupt into the mouth between the ages of 16 and 20 years. Because there is often inadequate room for these teeth, the wisdom teeth rarely grow in to assume a normal position within the jaws to become functional teeth that are useful in chewing. It is more often the case that these teeth come in crooked, leaning in different abnormal directions, or they fail to erupt completely through the jawbone or gums (“impacted” wisdom teeth).
These poorly positioned wisdom teeth can result in negative complications to the overall dental health. These problems include:
- Tooth decay
- Periodontal disease (gum disease)
- Damage to adjacent teeth, possibly resulting in tooth loss
- Dental crowding
- Cysts or tumors within the jaw bones
The only predictable way to prevent problems with wisdom teeth is to have them removed before these problems occur. If you, or your dentist, have concerns regarding your wisdom teeth, an accurate evaluation of the status of these teeth within your jaws can be provided to you by one of our doctors. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends timely removal of indicated wisdom teeth between the ages of 15 and 25. The longer you delay the removal of poorly positioned wisdom teeth, the more likely you are to experience unfavorable complications from the wisdom teeth themselves, or from the surgery required to remove them.