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Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often, they are misaligned and require removal.

How Do I Know if I Have Wisdom Teeth?

Your dentist may take an X-ray periodically to evaluate for the presence and alignment of your wisdom teeth

When wisdom teeth are misaligned, they may position themselves horizontally, be angled toward or away from the second molars, or be angled inward or outward. Poor alignment of wisdom teeth can crowd or damage adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or nerves.

Partial eruption of the wisdom teeth allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection, which results in pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, and general illness. Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay and gum diseas,e because their hard-to-reach location and awkward positioning makes brushing and flossing difficult.

How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

The relative ease at which your dentist or oral surgeon can extract your wisdom teeth depends on their position and stage of development. A wisdom tooth that is fully erupted through the gum can be extracted as easily as any other tooth. However, a wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums and embedded in the jawbone will require an incision into the gums and then removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth.