Somewhere between the ages of 12 to 18 years old, third molars begin to develop and erupt through the gums if there is adequate space. However, the modern jaw shape often can't accommodate wisdom teeth, leading to either of two unhealthy conditions: crowding of existing permanent teeth and/or impacted tooth development. Since few people’s jaws can accommodate these large third molars, we typically examine 14- to 15-year-old patients to predict the upcoming developmental positioning of the wisdom teeth. A consultation with an oral surgeon is often recommended to evaluate the ideal timing of third molar removal, if necessary.
While extraction may not sound like a lot of fun, it's far better than the typical alternatives. Crowded teeth can misalign your bite, cause jaw pain, and lead to gum disease, causing dental problems for the rest of your life. Partially-erupted wisdom teeth allow bacteria and germs to multiply, leading to infection or cyst formation; tumors may even grow on a trapped wisdom tooth. Impacted or partially-erupted wisdom teeth may force entry, pushing up in whichever direction they find the most give: sideways, vertically, backward, forward. Such impaction can cause pain, swelling, and infection. The good news is that extraction is a simple, routine surgical procedure that can usually be performed comfortably in one office visit.