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The name may suggest something positive, but wisdom teeth can actually be a real pain. This third set of molars generally grows between the age of 17 and 25, although some people never get them at all. While not all wisdom teeth need to be removed, some can cause serious problems and pain and need to be removed by a dentist.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars in the mouth. The first set of molars grows around age 6 and the second set form around age 12. This third set of molars were useful centuries ago when our ancestors had to rely on their teeth to chew through tough foods. Since dentists weren’t around back then, our ancestors often lost their teeth, making this third set of molars a necessity for eating.

How Do I Know If I Need Them Removed?

Your dentist will perform x-rays on a yearly basis to check for tooth decay, gum disease, and to see how the teeth are situated in your mouth. Those x-rays can also show your dentist the positioning of your wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth are impacted- meaning they have formed below the gum line- or are causing you pain, your dentist will likely recommend that you have them removed. The longer wisdom teeth stay in your mouth, the deeper their roots form so it’s better to have them removed sooner rather than later.

What Can I Expect The Day Of Surgery?

A wisdom tooth removal is an oral surgery so it does come with its own set of risks. Your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend that you take a course of antibiotics prior to the removal to prevent infection. You’ll be given some type of numbing agent or medication- either novocaine or something stronger like laughing gas or general anesthesia.

The dentist will loosen the wisdom teeth from the gums and then remove them with the use of forceps. Once the teeth are removed, gauze will be applied to slow down the bleeding. Care must be taken after surgery to avoid dry sockets and other complications, but recovery generally takes about a week.