The third molars, commonly referred to as the wisdom teeth, are particularly prone to problems both above the gumline as well as below. As the last teeth to erupt — typically during the ages of 17 to 21 — there is rarely enough space left in the mouth for these four additional teeth.
As a result, the growth pattern for the wisdom teeth tends to become distorted. Due to the lack of space and the upward curvature of the jawbone, the wisdom teeth are often found to be angled sideways and many wisdom teeth fail to reach their full height above the gums (a condition known as impaction). The problems associated with the wisdom teeth can cause swelling, infection, and pain. In light of these complications, it is sometimes necessary to have the wisdom teeth carefully extracted by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.