The average person will have 32 teeth by the time they reach the age of 18. Most adults only have space in their mouth for 28 teeth. The last molars in the mouth on the top and bottom are referred as the third molars or “wisdom teeth”. Many feel that there is no indication to remove third molars if: the teeth have adequate space to erupt into the mouth, proper oral hygiene can be maintained, the surrounding gum tissue and bone are healthy, and the teeth are free of symptoms or associated infection/pathology. The recommendation for such third molars is continued evaluation through follow up visits and periodic x-rays with the general dentist. Unfortunately, most third molars do not fall into this category. Due to insufficient space in the mouth, many of the third molars are hindered in eruption. When the third molar does not fully erupt into the mouth, it is considered impacted. Impacted third molars can lead to the inability to maintain proper oral hygiene, cavities on second and third molars, periodontal (gum) disease, and/or bone loss. If the impacted third molar is left untreated, the health of the second molar can also become compromised.
Even if third molars are free of symptoms (pain or swelling), cysts/pathological lesions associated with the impacted teeth can develop. The indications for third molar removal are: infection, pain, swelling, periodontal disease, bone loss, cysts/pathological lesions associated with third molars, or potential for damaging adjacent teeth. Please see the video links below for further information provided by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) regarding Third Molar Surgery and Wisdom Teeth Management.
Please see the informational video below for more information about third molar surgery: