What is a wisdom tooth extraction?

POSTED: 01:12 PM MST Dec 16, 2013    UPDATED: 02:06 PM MST Jan 02, 2014 
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By Mayo Clinic News Network

Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure to remove one or more wisdom teeth -- the four permanent adult teeth located at the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom.

If a wisdom tooth doesn't have room to grow (impacted wisdom tooth), resulting in pain, infection or other dental problems, you'll likely need to have it pulled. Wisdom tooth extraction may be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon. Some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if impacted teeth aren't causing problems, as a preventive measure against potential future problems.

Problems with impacted wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to appear (erupt) in the mouth. These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth. For others, wisdom teeth erupt normally — just as their other molars did — and cause no problems.

Many people, however, develop impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don't have enough room to erupt into the mouth or grow normally. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially or not at all.

An impacted wisdom tooth may:

You'll likely need your impacted wisdom tooth pulled if it results in problems such as:

Preventing future dental problems
Dental specialists disagree about the value of extracting impacted wisdom teeth that aren't causing problems (asymptomatic).

Here's the rationale for preventive treatment:

Other specialists argue that there isn't enough evidence to suggest that impacted wisdom teeth not causing problems in young adults will later cause problems. Therefore, they suggest that the expense and risks of the procedure don't justify the expected benefit.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/wisdom-tooth-extraction/MY01212/DSECTION=why-its-done