When most people hear the words, “wisdom teeth,” they immediately think of wisdom teeth removal. While removing the third molars in the very back of your mouth is standard practice in most dental practices, it’s not always necessary. Sometimes, though, even when wisdom teeth aren’t causing discomfort, they still require removal, so it’s important to understand the warning signs of possible problems
Healthy wisdom teeth
There are cases when wisdom teeth don’t require removal, but it’s vital that you discuss your particular situation with your dentist. The types of wisdom teeth considered healthy and safe to leave in include those that:
- Have erupted and grown in completely without causing problems
- Possess the proper position and bite alignment with the teeth on the opposite side of the mouth
- Are capable of being cleaned with normal oral hygiene techniques
These are exceptions to the rule though as wisdom teeth don’t often have enough room to grow in or grow in at improper angles that can cause damage and pain. When wisdom teeth only emerge partially, this creates a passageway that’s both hard to clean and encourages bacteria growth that can lead to oral infection and gum disease. When wisdom teeth remain completely hidden and never erupt, there’s a higher chance that they’re trapped within the jaw, or impacted.
Knowing when to have wisdom teeth removed requires consulting with your dental professional. Sometimes, removing wisdom teeth happens when patients are younger and before the fully formed roots occur, which secure the teeth firmly in the jaw. The belief in doing it early is that younger people recover faster from the procedure and the wisdom teeth don’t impede continuing teeth development. In older adults, even when wisdom teeth don’t cause discomfort, issues may still exist. If they haven’t emerged, you may have impacted wisdom teeth or they may be growing at an angle that damages other teeth because there’s no room for the third molars in your mouth. Waiting too long to remove wisdom teeth makes them more difficult to remove and can cause oral health issues.
Reasons to remove wisdom teeth
Although your wisdom teeth might not be causing you problems, if an X-ray shows potential issues, removal is necessary. Other reasons to have wisdom teeth removed include:
- Avoiding damage – Wisdom teeth pushing through can move surrounding teeth and cause bite problems and pain.
- Preventing cysts – When wisdom teeth erupt, cysts may form around them, and if left untreated, they can damage nerves and the jaw.
- Relieving sinus issues – Wisdom teeth problems can lead to sinus pressure, congestion, and pain.
- Keeping gums healthy – Gum tissue around impacted or erupted wisdom teeth can become swollen and difficult to clean. Pockets between teeth can form from swollen gums, and this encourages bacteria growth that causes cavities.
- Maintaining tooth alignment – Impacted wisdom teeth undermine the positive improvements of bridges, partial dentures, braces, and crowns, and can create alignment issues.
Signs wisdom teeth require removal
There are several definite signs that wisdom teeth require removal, and they include:
- Experiencing pain
- Suffering repeated infections in the soft tissue behind the teeth
- Developing cysts and tumors
- Visible damage to adjacent teeth
- Signs of gum disease
- Significant amount of tooth decay in the wisdom teeth or nearby teeth
If wisdom teeth causing the above issues remain in place, they can lead to additional pain and damage in your mouth.
Deciding to remove wisdom teeth requires talking to your dentist about the health of your wisdom teeth, the position of the teeth, and your overall oral health. If you’re not comfortable having your wisdom teeth removed right away and they’re not causing you pain or any noticeable problems, it’s possible to wait and see if anything changes, so you can re-evaluate the situation later.
When your wisdom teeth or other teeth in your mouth cause you concern, contact our offices promptly to schedule an appointment for a thorough dental exam. In next week’s post, we’ll explain what you can expect during wisdom teeth removal.