The average adult has 32 teeth by age 18 16 teeth on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces while the back teeth, or molar teeth, are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.
“Wisdom Teeth” or third molars are the last permanent teeth to develop and erupt into the mouth. Wisdom teeth usually begin to erupt into the mouth between the ages of 15 to 18 years of age. By age 22 to 24, they should be fully erupted into the mouth. This was assumed to be the “age of wisdom” which is where this term originated. The majority of patients have a total of four wisdom teeth, one in each back corner of the upper and lower jaw. If the upper and low jaws are large enough, the teeth will erupt into position similar to the other molars without resultant problems. However, most patients’ jaws are not large enough to accommodate the wisdom teeth and will become trapped in the jawbones and malpositioned. In this situation, the wisdom tooth is said to be “impacted”, and bacteria in the mouth can cause an infection in the area. The infection can involve gums, jawbones and even the neighboring teeth. If the infect on is not treated, this could result in infection and damage to the gums and jawbones and even loss of neighboring teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can also damage the neighboring molar tooth by causing a hole in the tooth. If left untreated, the neighboring molar tooth could be damaged beyond repair resulting in removal of the tooth. Impacted wisdom teeth can also cause pressure on adjacent teeth. This pressure has potential to push other teeth out of alignment, which may then require the need for orthodontic treatment. Cysts (a sac filled with fluid) and tumors can also develop around the impacted wisdom tooth. As the cyst or tumor enlarges in size it can destroy the surrounding jawbone and loosen other teeth. In rare instances, if the cyst or tumor is very large it could result in loss of a portion of the jaw creating a defect which may require extensive surgery to reconstruct.
Surgical removal of impacted teeth should be completed when the patient is in the teenage years. During the teen years, the jawbones are soft and the roots of the wisdom teeth are not fully developed. With this surgical advantage, the surgery is less complicated and wound healing in most instances is without complications. As you age, the jawbones become hard and the roots become longer. This results in a more difficult surgery and chances for delayed healing and infections after surgery.
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. Lee can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there may be present or future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid – teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Dr. Lee has the training, license and experience to provide various types of anesthesia to allow patients to select the best alternative. These services are provided in an environment of optimum safety, utilizing modern monitoring equipment and staff experienced in anesthesia techniques.