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Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the final four molars that most adults develop. These teeth are located in the very back of the mouth, one on either side in both the upper and lower arch.

Wisdom teeth typically develop during the teen years and may surface at any time, but it is not uncommon for people to develop them in their twenties. It also is not unusual for wisdom teeth to remain below the gumline (impacted) and not surface at all.

Because wisdom teeth may increase the risk of crowded teeth, infection or misalignment, your dentist may advise you to have your wisdom teeth removed. Also, impacted wisdom teeth could become extremely painful and so problematic that extraction is required. Other disadvantages of keeping wisdom teeth include the possibility of shifting surrounding teeth, jaw pain and bite irregularities (potentially causing TMJ problems), bone loss and expansion of the jaw, and interrupting normal sinus function, causing sinus congestion and headaches.

However, not all wisdom teeth require extraction. Despite presenting disadvantages, wisdom teeth also have a few advantages. For instance, they provide support for dental bridges or fill in the space left by a missing molar. Some scientists feel that wisdom teeth may serve as a future stem-cell source for developing new teeth.

Is Removal Necessary?

During a dental examination, your dentist may use panoramic and digital X-rays to determine if wisdom teeth removal is necessary and which procedure would be best. These diagnostic tools also are used to identify additional risks involved that could affect how your dentist approaches the procedure.

For people aged 35 and older, the risks of wisdom tooth extraction are greater than those for younger people. Wisdom teeth removal for people over 50 poses higher risks because the bone fuses to the teeth over time. Another risk is experiencing numbness in the extraction area, as well as developing pain, bleeding, swelling and persistent sinus opening.

What's more, waiting to remove your wisdom teeth until there is a medical concern increases your risk for all complications. Other problems associated specifically with not removing impacted wisdom teeth include developing bone destroying tumors or cysts, and gum irritation. Therefore, it is strongly recommended by dentists that potentially problematic wisdom teeth be removed by age 18.

Removing Wisdom Teeth

Extracting wisdom teeth before they erupt involves a surgical procedure that is far from a simple tooth extraction. Although some general dentists may be qualified to remove impacted or un-erupted wisdom teeth, most wisdom tooth extractions of this type require the services of an oral surgeon. Many patients prefer to be anesthetized under general anesthesia or heavily sedated, and dentists providing such care must have special skills and training to sedate patients or offer general anesthesia.

The Cost of Extracting Wisdom Teeth

The cost for extracting wisdom teeth is based on several factors. These factors include:

The cost for extracting wisdom teeth ranges from $150 to $350 per tooth. However, this estimate excludes additional fees for sedation, X-rays, supplies for the procedure or any difficulty associated with the closeness of the wisdom tooth to surrounding teeth and nerves.

The costs for removing impacted wisdom teeth are higher than those for removing wisdom teeth that have surfaced. Some dental insurance companies may provide a 15 percent reimbursement or up to a 50 percent absorption of the total procedure costs for wisdom teeth extraction.

Check out some of the more popular articles on Cosmetic Dentistry Central: Cost of Dentures, Cost of a Dental Bridge, Dental Insurance.

(Updated on 11/02/12)
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