Most of us have them. Some keep them for a lifetime, and others undergo wisdom teeth extraction in their teens. Many people fall somewhere in the middle. Where you land on the spectrum depends on your individual situation.
Wisdom teeth generally appear around the age of 17-25, much later than your other teeth. Most people have four wisdom teeth: upper and lower. Others may have one, two or three. And then some never develop wisdom teeth at all.
Your dentist will assess the state of your mouth and make a recommendation based on their findings. So what variables determine whether wisdom tooth extraction is warranted in your case?
When is wisdom tooth removal needed?
Oral surgeons and dentists usually advise wisdom tooth removal at a young age if the teeth will likely cause future problems. If this is the case, most dentists will recommend a proactive approach. However, if the position of your wisdom teeth makes it unlikely that you will have any issues, there’s usually no reason to extract them.
However, there are several scenarios when extracting your wisdom teeth is advisable.
So why do wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
Impacted wisdom teeth
When your wisdom teeth, or third molars, come in or “erupt”, several things can go wrong in the process.
Sometimes wisdom teeth only partially emerge through your gums. If this is the case, a flap of gum tissue covers the wisdom teeth and causes many problems. For example, food can get trapped between this flap and the tooth. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so your gums can become inflamed and painful.
Other problems caused by impacted wisdom teeth may include infection, swelling, and mouth ulcers. Impacted wisdom teeth can also lead to tooth decay, not just for the affected tooth but the ones adjacent to it.
Sometimes there’s inadequate room to accommodate your wisdom teeth comfortably. The first and second molars take up all the space in the rear of your jawbone, crowding the third molars out. As a result, the third molar is trapped under the gums or positioned incorrectly, causing impaction. Even if there is no room, your wisdom teeth will continue to grow and can result in crowding of the adjacent molars.
In addition, crowded wisdom teeth can lean sideways, causing friction against your cheek. This can lead to chewing problems and mouth ulcers.
Sinus and jaw issues
If your wisdom teeth don’t erupt properly, it can adversely affect your bite. A bad bite, where your top and bottom teeth do not meet as they should, can result in stiffness that makes it difficult to open and close your mouth. If you suspect you have bite issues, consult with your dentist. Without intervention, your jaw can become misaligned, bringing another host of problems.
When your wisdom teeth start to emerge and set down roots into the upper jaw, you may experience sinus pressure and pain. This is because your sinuses are directly above your molars. The symptoms of pain, headaches and congestion are similar to those of a sinus infection, and people can easily confuse dental pain and sinus pain.
Multiple gum infections
Impacted wisdom teeth often cause inflammation of the gums, which can be challenging to treat. In addition, the bacteria responsible for gum infections can have a negative impact on the surrounding nerves or enter your bloodstream. This bacteria can cause sepsis, a dangerous condition that impacts your entire body.
Those with other health problems, especially people with compromised immune systems, may suffer serious complications from these infections.
Partially impacted third molars carry a high risk of tooth decay, also known as caries. Wisdom teeth are harder to brush because of their location. It’s easy for food and bacteria to get trapped between a partially emerged wisdom tooth and your gums.
If you have an impacted wisdom tooth causing problems like cavities, your dentist will likely recommend extraction.
What happens if you don’t extract your wisdom teeth?
Impacted wisdom teeth in your lower jaw that becomes infected could cause a severe condition called Ludwig’s Angina. This involves a life-threatening swelling on the bottom of your mouth, which can result in the obstruction of your airway.Wisdom teeth that are decayed beyond repair may be surgically extracted. If the tooth has increased risk of nerve damage during the removal process, the dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon for the extraction.
On the other hand, if your wisdom teeth are not adversely impacting your oral or overall health, the best course under most circumstances is to leave the wisdom teeth intact. Well-placed wisdom teeth provide support and help maintain healthy jaw bones.
Contact Dana Street Dental
At one time, wisdom tooth extraction was almost a given and routinely practised across the board. Today, leaving healthy, properly placed wisdom teeth intact is more common. Every dental or medical procedure carries risks. It is preferable to avoid an extraction and leave the third molars intact.
It is vital to visit your dentist and allow them to assess your wisdom teeth, especially if you are experiencing any symptoms. Our experienced dental professionals at Dana Street Dental are here to help so small problems do not become big problems. Please get in touch with us at Dana Street Dental for a complete examination and a recommendation on whether you would benefit from extracted wisdom teeth. We look forward to hearing from you!