Wisdom teeth (technically known as third molars) are the last teeth to erupt in the adult mouth. Not everyone develops their four wisdom teeth; some people may only develop two or three.
Third molars are positioned far back in the mouth making it very difficult to keep them clean, meaning they are more susceptible to decay. Many people do not have enough room in their mouth for their third molars to erupt, which means they become impacted; only erupting partially or not at all, causing many problems. For these reasons, third molars are generally extracted.
Problems Caused by Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth can work its way down to the impacted wisdom teeth, frequently causing infection in the surrounding gums and bone. Repeated soreness around the wisdom teeth is often mistaken as an effort of the wisdom teeth to erupt. This soreness, however, could be a sign of infection. Surrounding bone, tooth roots and adjacent teeth may be harmed if left untreated.
The constant pressure from impacted wisdom teeth can also damage adjacent teeth. You may not feel anything until significant damage has occurred. This pressure may also push other teeth out of line, possibly creating a need for orthodontic treatment.
Advantages to Early Removal of Wisdom Teeth
Removing impacted wisdom teeth early is usually a less involved procedure than waiting until complications and pain develop. It is best to remove the teeth before the roots are fully formed. As you age, the roots will thicken, becoming more firmly anchored to your jawbone. If you wait until your wisdom teeth cause you trouble, chances are complications are higher and recovery may not proceed as smoothly as when they are removed electively.