The average adult will develop 32 teeth, however, the average mouth is made to hold only 28. These four extra teeth are your third molars, also known as "wisdom teeth." During adolescence the roots of the wisdom teeth begin to develop and can grow into the jaw nerve or sinus and push against the adjacent second molar teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that can hold only 28 teeth.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows food and bacteria to grow and will often cause an infection. The result is pain, swelling, stiffness and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the alignment of teeth, even after orthodontic treatment. The cell lining around the impacted wisdom tooth grows into a tumor or cyst, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended (before the roots are fully grown) to simplify the procedure, decrease the surgical risk of nerve injury or sinus opening, and avoid future problems.
With an oral examination and x-ray images, Dr. Cullum can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and advise you of present or potential problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid- teen years by their dentist, orthodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.