Wisdom Teeth (3rd Molars)

By the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth: 16 teeth on top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The front teeth (incisors, canine, and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth, or molars, are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.

The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt.

These poorly positioned teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems.