Wisdom Teeth Removal

At Kona Kids Dentistry Dr. Brandon and Dr. Kat get a lot of questions from parents about their children’s wisdom teeth. Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?  When do wisdom teeth need to be removed? What is the pain involved when the wisdom teeth are removed? What is the recovery like when the wisdom teeth are removed?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow in the back of the mouth. They are the third molars. Normally people have three permanent molars that develop in each area of the mouth; upper, lower, right and left. The first molars usually grow into the mouth at around six years of age. The second molars grow in at around age 12. The third molars usually will try to grow in at around age 17 to 21 years. Since that is considered to be the age when people become wiser, third molars gained the nickname, “wisdom teeth.” Actually, they are no different than any other tooth except that they are the last teeth to erupt, or grow into the mouth. They are just as useful as any other tooth if they grow in properly, have a proper bite relationship and have healthy gum tissue around them. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Wisdom teeth may need removal as up to 9 out of 10 people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which can cause pain and require more recovery time if not extracted in a timely manner.  Many times wisdom teeth don’t have room to grow properly which can cause problems and pain. Erupting wisdom teeth can grow at various angles in the jaw, sometimes even horizontally (severe impaction).
Sometimes wisdom teeth only partially emerge through the gums (impacted). If the wisdom teeth emerge partially through the gums, a passageway is created, which can cause problems. And because this area is hard to see and clean, it can become a magnet for bacteria that cause gum disease and oral infection (pericoronitis).  Other times, they remain completely hidden.


The question remains: When is it best to have wisdom teeth removal done?
Many oral health specialists will recommend removal of the wisdom teeth before they are fully developed, usually in the adolescent years, as early removal will help to eliminate problems that can occur later, like damage to adjacent teeth (cavities, crowding) or gum infections (pericornitis, periodontal disease) that can cause pain. It is easier on the patient to have wisdom teeth removed when a person is younger, since roots are not completely formed, surrounding bone is softer, and there is less chance of roots growing near the nerve of the lower jaw which can increase risk nerve damage if removed later. For these reasons younger patients usually experience less pain with their wisdom teeth removal, and their overall recovery time is faster from surgery as well.
Third molars that are fully erupted, functional, and healthy may not require extraction.
The decision to remove wisdom teeth isn’t always clear. Dr. Brandon and Dr. Kat at Kona Kids Dentistry in Tigard, Oregon, would be happy to discuss the position and health of your child’s wisdom teeth and what may be best for their situation at your child’s next visit.  Together, with you, they can help with this decision on whether or not to do wisdom teeth removal, and the overall timing of this removal.