According to an interview in the New York Times, the head of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons' Task Force on Wisdom Teeth estimates that between 70 and 80% of Americans meet the criteria for removal. The American Dental Association estimates that 10 million impacted wisdom teeth are removed from 5 million patients each year. With this volume of surgeries, you likely know someone who has successfully undergone the procedure. But if you've been referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to have your wisdom teeth removed, what can you expect? Why these teeth are removed Wisdom teeth, sometimes also called third molars, are the teeth that are located in the farthest point back in your mouth. Typically, we develop four third molars, with one on the top and bottom of the right and left sides of the jaw. Sometimes wisdom teeth develop naturally, erupting through the gums and aligning with the rest of the teeth. In the estimated 70 plus percent of people where this doesn't happen, some serious dental and health problems can occur. The following four issues are the most common:
- Impaction and bone damage: If the teeth are impacted, they may try to grow sideways and cause damage to the jawbone as they work on finding a path to erupt.
- Infections: Partially erupted teeth can leave openings in the gum which attract bacteria. This bacteria over time can cause both minor and serious infections.
- Pressure: Impacted teeth can place pressure on other nearby teeth, disrupting the natural tooth growth patterns and orthodontic development. This can lead to crowding and decay.
- Cysts and tumors: Tumors and cysts can develop around impacted wisdom teeth. This serious complication can result in damage to the gums and jawbone.
Jill Smith is a writer with a vast array of subject matter expertise. Along with publishing articles for large and small businesses, she researches, writes and publishes reports on various public policy issues.