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Wisdom teeth are the upper
and lower third molars, located at the very back of the mouth. They are called
wisdom teeth because usually they come in between ages 17 and
21—when a person is old enough to have gained some wisdom.
Wisdom teeth that are
healthy and in the right position usually don't cause problems. You may have a problem if any of the following occur:
If your wisdom teeth are causing problems, you may have symptoms such as:
Most problems with wisdom teeth affect people between
the ages of 15 and 25. People older than 30 usually don't have problems that require
their wisdom teeth to be removed.
Your dentist will check for signs of a wisdom tooth coming through your gum or crowding
other teeth. You will have
X-rays to find out if your wisdom teeth are
causing problems now or are likely to cause problems in the future.
Wisdom teeth that cause problems should be removed, or extracted. This can be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
The dentist or surgeon will open the gum tissue over the tooth if needed and remove the tooth. Sometimes a tooth will be cut into smaller pieces to make it easier to take out.
After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches.
If you have an infection, you may need to wait until it is gone before you have your wisdom teeth removed. The dentist or surgeon may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection.
While you wait to have the teeth removed, you can take steps to reduce pain and swelling.
Don't put an aspirin directly on your gums. Aspirin used in this way can damage your gums.
Have your dentist check your wisdom teeth if you're 16 to 19 years old.
Experts don't agree about
whether it's a good idea to routinely remove wisdom teeth that aren't causing
Your dentist can help you decide what's right for you.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about wisdom tooth problems:
The American Dental Association (ADA), the professional
membership organization of practicing dentists, provides information about oral
health care for children and adults. The ADA can also help you find a dentist
in your area.
This Web site by the Academy of General Dentistry
provides information on dental care and oral hygiene.
Other Works Consulted
Bagheri SC, et al. (2007). Extraction versus
nonextraction management of third molars. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America, 19: 15–21.
Dodson TB, Susarla SM (2010). Impacted wisdom teeth,
search date August 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence:
Haug RH, et al. (2009). Evidenced-based
decision making: The third molar. Dental Clinics of North America, 53: 77–96.
Kaminishi RM, Kaminishi KS (2004). New considerations
in the treatment of compromised third molars. Journal of the California Dental Association, 32(10): 823–825.
Marciani RD (2007). Third molar removal: An
overview of indications, imaging, evaluation, and assessment of risk.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America,
Slade GD, et al., (2004). The impact of third molar
symptoms, pain, and swelling on oral health-related quality of life.
Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery,
Current as of:
August 19, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
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