Friday, January 29, 2016

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are third molars that normally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21.  Since they are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth, usually at the time of young adulthood; an age associated with budding maturity and wisdom; they are more popularly known as "wisdom teeth".

Wisdom teeth, when properly positioned can add to being able to chew well but are not always necessary for optimal function.  Because of their position so far back in the mouth, they can be difficult to clean.

As we, as a society; evolve into consuming more refined foods, which require lot less vigorous chewing, the need for teeth and the corresponding jaw size diminishes. The Aborigines of Australia, supposedly still have their 42 teeth.!

 Wisdom teeth are often impacted  as a result of the discrepancy in the size of the jaws and the number of teeth.  When impacted, the third molars are trapped beneath the gum and bone and against the teeth in front of them.

 The 3 major categories of impaction are-

Horizontal Impaction or a sleeping tooth is where the third molar grows into the mouth horizontally , heading straight towards the root surface of the second molar. These teeth, unless symptomatic are best left alone.

Angular Impaction  is a third molar growing into the mouth at an angle, only partially erupting and trapping food deposits often resulting in pain, swelling  and infection. These are the teeth most likely to need removal to prevent  pain, infection and teeth migration.

Vertical Impaction is  less common and is generally found when the jaws are under developed. Often, these impactions do not cause any pain and are  discovered in dental exams with radiographs ( X rays).

Wisdom extractions can be  performed under local anesthesia and pain or anxiety- reducing medications are available when appropriate.

Teeth positions have a significant bearing on facial profile and timely removal of  impacted teeth is an important aspect of managing facial forms and dental health.

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