What are Wisdom Teeth?

By the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth; 16 teeth on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molar teeth are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.

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. These four other teeth are your Third Molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.”

Why Should I Remove My Wisdom Teeth?

There are many problems that can arise from your Wisdom teeth, however the most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth.

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and 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 tooth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth 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 tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.

Oral Examination

With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. Summers or Dr. Strider can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there may be present or future problems.

Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid- teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Dr. Summers and Dr. Strider have the training, license and experience to provide various types of anesthesia for patients to select the best alternative.


In most cases, the removal of wisdom teeth is performed under local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia) or general anesthesia. These options as well as the surgical risks (i.e. sensory nerve damager, sinus complications) will be discussed with you at your evaluation appointment. Once the teeth are removed, the gum is sutured. You will rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, your post-operative kit will include postoperative 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 (864) 585-3318.

Our services are provided in an environment of optimum safety that utilizes modern monitoring equipment and staff that are experienced in anesthesia techniques.

Impacted Canines

An impacted tooth is a tooth that is within the bone and is unable to erupt into the mouth and function. Patients frequently develop problems with impacted third molar (wisdom) teeth. These teeth get “stuck” in the back of the jaw and can develop painful infections among a host of other problems (see “Impacted wisdom teeth” to the left). Since there is rarely a functional need for wisdom teeth, they are usually extracted before they develop problems. The maxillary canine (upper eye tooth) is the second most common tooth to remain impacted. The canine is a critical tooth in the dental arch and plays an important role in your occlusion or bite. These are very strong biting teeth which have the longest roots of any human teeth and guide your teeth as you chew.

Normally, the maxillary canines are the last of the front teeth to erupt into place. They usually come into place around age 13. If a cuspid tooth gets impacted, every effort is made to get it to erupt into its proper position in the dental arch. The techniques involved to aid eruption can be applied to any impacted tooth in the upper or lower jaw, but most commonly they are applied to the maxillary canines.

What happens if the eye tooth will not erupt when proper space is available?

In cases where the eye teeth will not erupt spontaneously, the orthodontist and oral surgeon work together to get these un-erupted eye teeth to erupt. The most common scenario will call for the orthodontist to place braces on the teeth. A space will be opened to provide room for the impacted tooth to be moved into its proper position in the dental arch. If the baby eye tooth has not fallen out already, it is usually left in place until the space for the adult eye tooth is ready. Once the space is ready, the orthodontist will refer the patient to the oral surgeon to have the impacted eye tooth exposed and bracketed. Following this, the orthodontist will slowly bring the tooth into alignment with the rest of the arch.

What to expect from surgery to expose and bracket an impacted tooth

The surgery to expose and bracket an impacted tooth is a very straight forward surgical procedure that is performed in the oral surgeon’s office. For most patients, it is performed with using laughing gas and local anesthesia. In selected cases it will be performed under I.V. sedation if the patient desires to be asleep, but this is generally not necessary for this procedure. The procedure is generally scheduled for 75 minutes if one tooth is being exposed and bracketed and 105 minutes if both sides require treatment. You can also refer to “Preoperative instructions” under Surgical Instructions on this web site for a review of any details.

You can expect a limited amount of bleeding from the surgical sites after surgery. Although there will be some discomfort after surgery at the surgical sites, most patients find Tylenol or Advil to be more than adequate to manage any pain they may have. Within 2-3 days after surgery there is usually little need for any medication at all and any minor swelling will begin to subside.  A soft, bland diet is recommended at first, but you may resume your normal diet as soon as you feel comfortable chewing. Your doctor will see you 7-10 days after surgery to evaluate the healing process and make sure you are maintaining good oral hygiene. You should plan to see your orthodontist within 1-14 days to activate the eruption process by applying the proper rubber band to the chain on your tooth. As always your doctor is available at the office or can be beeped after hours if any problems should arise after surgery. Simply call us at (864) 585-3318 if you have any questions.