Wisdom Teeth

By the age of 18, the average adult has 32 teeth — 16 teeth on top and 16 teeth on the bottom. But the average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. The four teeth that often cause problems are your third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth”.

Why should I have my wisdom teeth removed?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt. When they align properly, and gum tissue is healthy, they need not be removed. Far more commonly, however, extraction is necessary because the wisdom teeth fail to erupt properly. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, or even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully. 

These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result is often swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid future problems and decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of wisdom teeth, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to wisdom teeth are discussed.

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

Oral examination

With an oral examination and x-rays, the MVOMS surgeons can evaluate the wisdom teeth positioning and predict whether problems will occur. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in superior outcomes. Patients are generally first evaluated in their mid-teenage years.


All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. The MVOMS team has the training and experience to provide the type of anesthesia that best suits each individual patient. Wisdom teeth may be removed under local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia), or general anesthesia.

These options, as well as the surgical risks (e.g., sensory nerve damage, sinus complications), will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed. Once the teeth are removed, the gum is sutured. Biting down on the gauze placed in your mouth will help control bleeding. You will rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, your postoperative kit will include care instructions, a prescription for pain medication, antibiotics, and a follow-up appointment in one week for suture removal.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at Mission Valley Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Phone Number (619) 298-2200 ext 2.