Third Molar Surgery
Third molars which will be discussed for third molar surgeries, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat. The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.
In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly cysts or tumors.
What are the symptoms of impacted third molars?
Some people with impacted wisdom teeth won’t notice any problems at all, while others will have obvious symptoms.
An impacted wisdom tooth might break through the gums, and part of the gums can be seen. This is called a partially impacted wisdom tooth.
A partially impacted wisdom tooth may cause food to become trapped and can make cleaning the tooth more difficult. For some people, a partially impacted tooth is very painful.
If the tooth becomes infected or causes other issues, you may have symptoms such as:
- Pain or swelling around the jaw
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Problems opening your mouth
In other cases, the affected tooth may never break through the gums. This is known as a fully impacted wisdom tooth.
How are impacted wisdom teeth treated?
If your impacted wisdom teeth cause symptoms or dental problems, you may need extraction of the third molar.
Surgery to remove wisdom teeth is usually performed in the clinic. You can go home the same day.
As part of the procedure, anesthetic drugs are used to induce a type of anesthesia, such as:
- Local anesthesia to numb your mouth
- General anesthesia to make you sleep and not feel anything during the procedure
During the procedure, a cut is made in your gums to take out problematic bone before removing the tooth. The incision is closed with stitches and the space is packed with gauze.
The entire surgery usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes.
If your teeth are fully impacted and buried deep within your gums or jawbone, it might be harder to remove them than if they’ve broken through the gum.
Complications of impacted wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth are hard to clean, and food can get trapped in them. If a wisdom tooth isn’t removed, it can lead to certain problems, such as:
- crowding of nearby teeth
- difficulty flossing
- damage to other teeth
- gum disease
Because of these potential complications, surgery might be suggested for impacted wisdom teeth, even if they don’t cause symptoms.