Wisdom teeth are the four teeth in the very back of your mouth. They are the last of your teeth to appear, usually coming in between the ages of 17 and 25 (the "age of wisdom"). Sometimes one or more of the teeth may become impacted and not break through the gums because there is not enough room. If they do develop and begin growing through the gums, the wisdom teeth may begin crowding other teeth in your mouth, or may start coming in at an angle.
If you have children between the ages of 16 and 19 you should find a pedodontist or family dentist to evaluate their wisdom teeth. The dental professional will ask your child whether the teeth are causing pain, review x-rays and evaluate whether the teeth are impacted, crowding other teeth, or causing an infection. If there is a problem, the dentist may recommend removal of the wisdom teeth. This is usually a less complicated procedure when the patient is younger. In cases where the tooth is impacted or coming in sideways, you may need to locate an oral surgeon to perform the procedure.
There are other factors to take into consideration when making the decision to remove wisdom teeth. An orthodontist may recommend their removal to insure a better outcome for orthodontic treatments. Some wisdom teeth left in the jaw can develop cysts which weaken the jawbone and cause fractures. In some cases leaving wisdom teeth in the mouth may lead to a higher rate of chronic bacterial infections later on in life.
If the wisdom teeth are taken out, there may be some discomfort, bleeding, swelling, or numbness; these symptoms usually last anywhere up to 72 hours. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection or pain medication.
If your dentist determines that your wisdom teeth are healthy and are not affecting the surrounding teeth, they will not be removed. You can continue caring for them with daily brushing and flossing and regular dental check-ups, just like you do with all of the other teeth in your mouth.
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