What are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last molars on each side of the jaws. They are also the last teeth to emerge, or erupt, usually when a person is between 16 and 20 and sometimes lead to needing wisdom tooth extractions.
Since wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to come in, or erupt, there is often not enough room left in your mouth to accommodate them. This can lead to wisdom teeth that are “impacted,” that is, teeth that are trapped beneath the gum tissue by other teeth or bone. If teeth are impacted, swelling and tenderness may occur.
Wisdom teeth that only partially emerge or come in crooked can also lead to painful crowding and dental disease. Since teeth removed before age 20 have less developed roots and fewer complications, the American Dental Association recommends that people between 16 and 19 have their wisdom teeth evaluated to see if they need to be removed.
How are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom tooth extractions are a relatively routine procedure. Your Jacksonville dentist will first numb the area surrounding the wisdom tooth by injecting a general anesthesia into the gum. If the wisdom teeth are impacted and embedded in the bone, the dentist will make an incision into the gums and remove the tooth or teeth in sections in order to minimize the amount of bone being removed.
After surgery, swelling and tenderness in the face and neck are common, as well as bruising. Ice packs and pain medications prescribed by the dentist should help ease the pain.
After the tooth (or teeth) is removed, you will probably be asked to bite down softly on a piece of gauze for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the office, to limit any bleeding that may occur. Some pain and swelling will probably occur but will normally go away after a few days; however, you should call your dentist if you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever.
Removal of wisdom teeth due to crowding or impaction should not affect your bite or oral health in the future.
Contact our Jacksonville office if you think you may need wisdom tooth extractions!
Why are third molars called “wisdom teeth?” The origin of the term “wisdom teeth,” or “teeth of wisdom,” goes all the way back to the writings of Plato and Hippocrates in ancient Greece. Yes, they had dentists even then. Third molars are the last teeth to come in, often as late as age 25, and by that time a person is mature and presumably “wise,” hence, “wisdom teeth.” Second molars have been called “12 year teeth,” because that’s the usual age when they come in. But, because third molars are the last teeth to come in, they are often blocked by the other teeth from fully erupting because there just isn’t room for them on the jaw bone.
But, “Why would Mother Nature allow that,” you ask? One explanation is given by anthropologists: Humans are constantly evolving, and modern man, because he now eats softer processed food, no longer needs a large jawbone and it has therefore been gradually shrinking over the centuries. Another explanation is genetic. A husband and wife as often as not come from different ethnic backgrounds with different genetic features. A man with a large jawbone and large teeth marries a woman with a small jawbone and small teeth. The child inherits his mother’s jawbone, but inherits his father’s teeth, and will therefore experience teeth crowding, with no room on the jawbone for third molars, or wisdom teeth, to fully erupt. A tooth which does not fully erupt is said to be “impacted.” Studies have found that72% of wisdom teeth in populations of European origin will be impacted.
A farmer being treated by a dentist. Painting by Johann Liss, in the year 1616.