Wisdom Teeth

What are wisdom teeth?

The last molar to erupt in the back of the upper and lower jaws is called the wisdom tooth or third molar. Most people have a full set of four wisdom teeth, but the number can vary. These teeth usually appear around ages 16 to 18, hence the name “wisdom teeth” or coming of knowledge or age.

Most people do not have enough room for these teeth, which are the last permanent teeth to develop. It is very important to have a screening, Panorex x-ray (which shows all the bony jaw structures) to determine how the wisdom teeth are developing and if there are underlying problems present such as:

  • Crowding
  • Infection
  • Damage to adjacent teeth
  • Cysts
  • Impaction/tooth stuck in jawbone
  • Impendence of orthodontic treatment
  • Interference with dental work (implants, crowns, etc.)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Damage to the surrounding nerves and bone

Recent research studies have linked wisdom teeth as a breeding ground for oral bacteria because the area is very difficult to keep clean by patients, dental hygienists, and even dentists.
Research supports that the chronic inflammation from the third molars can affect the whole body especially in the development or progression of diseases such as heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. In pregnant women, the inflammation may contribute to low birth weight in babies.

Why do they get impacted?

Current research studies point to the fact that our modern diet does not cause wear and attrition of our teeth. When the teeth wear down, they tend to drift forward allowing more space in the jaw. Our modern, stronger teeth typically prevent this from happening.

Clinical Evaluation

After the x-ray and clinical exam, the risks and benefits of removal are discussed for each individual patient’s case. Dr. Satko will only remove wisdom teeth if she feels it is necessary and the benefits outweigh the risks. Early removal is usually easier, however, because everyone’s situation is unique, Dr. Satko evaluates each patient according to his or her wants and needs.

Risk and complications

All surgery has risks. Dr. Satko will discuss each individual case with any probable complications and what to expect after surgery.

  • Swelling, bruising, jaw stiffness (usually resolves in 5-7 days)
  • Dry sockets (most common in smokers)
  • Infections (antibiotics usually prescribed if needed)
  • Sinus problems (treated with medications and sinus precautions)
  • Nerve injury. Sometimes, persistent numbness/tingling, pain or loss of taste can occur. This is usually temporary. One option is a partial removal to prevent damage to the nerve (Coronectomy). 

This list is not all inclusive, each patient has different risks and benefits. Contact us if you have any more questions or concerns. 

What to expect during surgery 

Procedures usually take from 60 to 90 minutes, including patient recovery time from anesthesia. Dr. Satko usually recommends an intravenous sedation to ease anxiety. This requires a six-hour fast (no food and no water) and a competent adult to drive the patient home. Any regular medications should be taken with a small sip of water. Dr. Satko will have a discussion at your pre-operative consultation if any medications (such as blood thinners) need to be discontinued or any premedication is required prior to surgery.

To learn more about post-operative care and Partial Odontectomies go here.