Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the final set of teeth that we get in our mouth. They usually erupt between the ages of 16 to 21, with the average around 18. For a few people they have enough room in their mouth for these teeth to come in properly and be in function. Unfortunately, for the majority, these teeth tend to not erupt properly, if at all, and can cause problems in the mouth.
These misaligned teeth can be angled horizontally, toward or away from the adjacent teeth, or be angled inward or outward. This can cause damage to the adjacent teeth, or crowding, which can also affect the rest of the mouth. If the wisdom teeth become only partially erupted, this can allow for bacteria to enter under the gums and cause an infection, which can result in pain, swelling, and jaw stiffness. These misaligned teeth are also more susceptible to decay, as they are more difficult to access for brushing and flossing.
Generally we keep an eye on these teeth and follow them as they develop. I would discuss with the patient and/or parents if I believe that consideration should be given for their removal. Usually this would be in the late teens, as they are more easily removed and healing tends to be quicker at this age. However, these teeth can cause problems at any age. Case in point would be an 82 year old patient that I had who’s wisdom tooth was buried under her gums her whole life, until it decided to break through the gums and cause a painful infection, requiring its removal. This is why, if we feel that the teeth won’t be in function, we would recommend they be extracted when the patient is young.
So if you have any odd pain in the back of your jaw, or radiating toward your temple, it could be your wisdom teeth trying to come through. You can let us know and we can perform a special x-ray that will show us how the teeth are positioned, and then discuss the options for dealing with them.
As always, if you have any concerns, we are available in our downtown Milton dental office to give you advice or to book an appointment to have you come in to assess your situation.