The wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are typically the last teeth to develop. Most people get their wisdom teeth late into their teens, or perhaps in their early 20s. These wisdom teeth can often create oral health problems, particularly when they are impacted (or trapped beneath gum tissue). Because of this, many dentists recommend that their patients simply have their wisdom teeth removed as early as possible, preventing the onset of dental issues down the road.
Your wisdom teeth may come in without any complications or negative side effects. Should problems arise in the future, you will need to check with your dentist to see if removal is recommended at that time.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Problems?
There are several potential reasons why wisdom teeth can create problems.
The most problematic cases involve impacted wisdom teeth. Because the wisdom teeth are the last teeth to develop, the jawbone may already be too crowded with other teeth, leaving no room for the wisdom teeth to emerge. As such, the wisdom teeth can remain trapped under the gum tissue, where they may bump up against the adjacent teeth and push them out of alignment. In other instances, the presence of impacted wisdom teeth can simply lead to persistent dental pain or pressure.
Additionally, be aware that when a tooth does not emerge or emerges just partially, it is impossible to clean it the way you clean your other teeth. Partially emerged wisdom teeth, in particular, can become magnets for food particles, resulting in the bacterial buildup and increasing the risk of infection, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Even wisdom teeth that emerge can do so at an unusual angle, potentially creating strain or tension on the jaw and surrounding muscle groups. In other words, even “healthy” wisdom teeth may be cause for concern.
The Risks of Leaving Your Wisdom Teeth in Place
There are a number of specific risks associated with wisdom teeth. A partial list of these risks includes:
- Wisdom teeth easily become infected, which can result in persistent pain. This is the most common complaint among patients who have their wisdom teeth intact. An infected wisdom tooth may lead to pain in the jaw, ear, or throat.
- When a wisdom tooth becomes infected, it can spread bacteria throughout the body, even into major organ systems. This can be especially dangerous for patients who are immunocompromised.
- Because partially erupted wisdom teeth are so difficult to keep clean, plaque buildup is common. In extreme cases, this can lead to tooth and gum decay and the degradation of underlying bone tissue.
- Also, keep in mind that if a wisdom tooth begins to decay, it can spread its decay to the surrounding teeth. In other words, they can compromise the health of adjacent teeth.
- Impacted wisdom teeth create pressure, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift out of place or even become damaged.
- Small fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, can develop around the wisdom tooth. Not only are these cysts painful, but when left untreated, they can destroy the surrounding bone tissue.
These are just a few of the complications that can accompany the development of wisdom teeth. The simplest solution may be to have your wisdom teeth removed to avoid these issues.
Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Right for You?
As your wisdom teeth begin to develop, your dentist will monitor their growth via dental imaging as well as physical examinations. Your dentist will often recommend having them extracted, referring you to an oral surgeon to have the procedure completed. Additionally, we recommend making an appointment if you experience symptoms at the back of your mouth, specifically pain, bleeding, or the feeling of intense pressure.
Wisdom tooth removal is a very straightforward procedure that can help you avoid more serious complications down the road. To find out more about the procedure or your eligibility for it, we invite you to schedule an appointment with our providers at OKC-OMS.