Wisdom teeth are the third and last molars on each side of the upper and lower jaws. They are also the final teeth to erupt; they usually appear when a person is in their late teens or early twenties. Wisdom teeth that only partially emerge or come in crooked can also lead to painful crowding and disease. Because 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.
Impacted wisdom teeth do not always show symptoms, meaning you could have impacted teeth and not even realize it. If symptoms do arise, it is usually the result of the gum on top of the tooth becoming infected or swollen. Symptoms may include pain, swollen and bleeding gums, swelling around the jaw, bad breath, headache or jaw ache, and an unpleasant taste when eating. Some people experience stiffness of the jaw or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Your dentist or oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia, depending on the expected complexity of the wisdom tooth extraction and your comfort level. Options include:
Wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they are:
According to the American Dental Association, wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you experience changes in the area of those teeth, such as:
The decision to remove wisdom teeth isn’t always clear. Talk to your dentist or an oral surgeon about the position and health of your wisdom teeth and what’s best for your situation.