Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars are the last teeth to erupt. This occurs usually between the ages of 17 and 25. There remains a great deal of controversy regarding whether or not these teeth need to be removed. It is generally suggested that teeth that remain completely buried or un-erupted in a normal position are unlikely to cause harm. However, if these impacted teeth are in an abnormal position (a dentist can show you this on an x-ray), their potential for harm should be assessed.
A tooth becomes impacted due to lack of space in the dental arch and its eruption is therefore prevented by gum, bone, another tooth or all three. Lack of space occurs because our jaws have become smaller (through evolution), we do not loose teeth through decay as frequently as in the past, and our diet is such that our teeth do not wear down as much.
Wisdom teeth generally cause problems when they erupt partially through the gum. The most common reasons for removing them are:
Saliva, bacteria and food particles can collect around an impacted wisdom tooth, causing it, or the next tooth to decay. It is very difficult to remove such decay. Pain and infection will usually follow.