Patient Education: Third Molars

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Third Molars (Wisdom Teeth)

What are Third Molars?

Third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the last set of molars to emerge in the back of the mouth. They typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25, although the timing can vary for each individual.

Why Do Some People Need Wisdom Teeth Extraction?

While wisdom teeth can erupt without causing any problems, they often pose various issues due to their position, size, and alignment. Here are several reasons why wisdom teeth extraction may be necessary:

1. Impaction:

  • Wisdom teeth may become impacted, meaning they are unable to fully emerge through the gum line due to lack of space or improper alignment. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to pain, swelling, and infection.

2. Crowding:

  • The presence of wisdom teeth can cause overcrowding in the mouth, leading to misalignment of other teeth. This can affect your bite and may necessitate orthodontic treatment.

3. Infection and Gum Disease:

  • Partially erupted wisdom teeth can create pockets around the gum line where bacteria can accumulate, leading to infection and gum disease. This can cause pain, swelling, and bad breath.

4. Decay and Cavities:

  • Due to their location at the back of the mouth, wisdom teeth are often difficult to clean properly, making them more susceptible to decay and cavities. Decay in wisdom teeth can spread to adjacent teeth and compromise oral health.

5. Cysts and Tumors:

  • Impacted wisdom teeth can develop cysts or tumors around the root, which can cause damage to surrounding bone and tissues if left untreated.

6. Orthodontic Treatment:

  • In some cases, the presence of wisdom teeth can interfere with ongoing orthodontic treatment, affecting the alignment of teeth and the success of orthodontic outcomes.

What Does the Extraction Procedure Involve?

Wisdom teeth extraction is typically performed by an oral surgeon or a dentist experienced in oral surgery. The procedure may involve:

  • Local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia to ensure comfort during the procedure.
  • Removal of the wisdom teeth through surgical extraction, which may require an incision in the gum tissue and, in some cases, the sectioning of the tooth into smaller pieces for easier removal.
  • Closure of the surgical site with stitches, which may be absorbable or require removal after a certain period.

Recovery and Aftercare:

Following wisdom teeth extraction, it's essential to follow your dentist's or oral surgeon's instructions for optimal healing. This may include:

  • Taking prescribed pain medications and antibiotics as directed to manage discomfort and prevent infection.
  • Applying ice packs to the face to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
  • Eating soft foods and avoiding hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may irritate the surgical site.
  • Practicing good oral hygiene by gently brushing and rinsing with a prescribed mouthwash, being careful around the extraction site to avoid disrupting healing.
  • Attending follow-up appointments with your dental provider to monitor healing and remove stitches if necessary.


While not everyone requires wisdom teeth extraction, it's essential to monitor the development of wisdom teeth and discuss any concerns with your dentist or oral surgeon. Early intervention can help prevent potential complications and maintain optimal oral health.

If you have any questions or concerns about wisdom teeth extraction or oral health, don't hesitate to reach out to your dental provider for guidance and personalized care.