Surgical Removal of Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth in the mouth to erupt and can begin to be seen in the mouth typically between the ages of 17 and 20.
Wisdom teeth, also called third molars frequently erupt in an abnormal position or may be unable to erupt at all (they are then described as impacted wisdom teeth).
Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. If the teeth are in a normal position then there is no reason that they cannot function as any other normal tooth. Unfortunately, this is often not the case and they may need to be removed.
When wisdom teeth are first erupting through the gum there can be associated pain and swelling. For some people this can be frequent and cause significant pain. In some people this can also lead to infection requiring treatment with antibiotics or even an emergency hospital admission and surgery.
It is common for wisdom teeth to only partially erupt into position so that there is a loose flap of gum overlying part of the tooth. This makes it very difficult to clean the tooth adequately and usually results in infection of the gum and eventual decay of the tooth. Restoring these teeth is not usually an option and results in them being extracted.
Impacted wisdom teeth may also develop cysts or other types of pathology in the surrounding bone.
Removing impacted wisdom teeth is usually safe and without significant complication. The most common complication with wisdom tooth removal is a minor post-operative infection. Other complications are uncommon but can be significant.
Surgically removing impacted lower wisdom teeth carries a small risk of nerve damage. The sensory nerve to the tongue can be damaged in approximately 1/1000 cases and the sensory nerve to the lower teeth, gums and lips can be damaged in approximately 1/100 cases. These risks are not the same for everybody and your surgeon will discuss your specific risk profile with you. These risks are commonly the reason your dentist refers you to a specialist for surgery.
Surgically removing impacted upper wisdom teeth is generally very safe. In rare instances there is a possibility of damaging the sinus that sits above the top molar teeth.