What Problems Occur with Wisdom Teeth?
Your wisdom teeth or third molars are located right at the back of your mouth and are the very last adult teeth to put in an appearance, usually during your late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth will push through without causing any problems and are correctly aligned and perfectly healthy. However, all too frequently wisdom teeth will struggle to erupt normally and are misaligned or impacted. Unfortunately, when this happens, it’s often necessary to remove wisdom teeth.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Cause So Many Problems?
You probably know several people who have had their wisdom teeth removed, so why do these teeth cause so many problems? By the time your wisdom teeth erupt, the rest of your adult teeth have already been in place for several years and are well established in your jawbone. Often there is insufficient room for wisdom teeth to erupt properly, and when they do struggle to come through, they can overcrowd or damage your existing teeth. Originally, humans had wisdom teeth because we used to have a much harder diet and needed to chew fibrous meats, roots, and grains, so our teeth wore out more quickly. An extra set of teeth was useful! Nowadays, with modern diets, it isn’t so necessary to have that set of third molars and jaws are often slightly smaller and less able to accommodate wisdom teeth.
What Happens When Wisdom Teeth Are Misaligned?
When wisdom teeth are misaligned, it means they are not correctly oriented to erupt properly. As such, they may be positioned horizontally or can be angled toward or away from the second molars. Sometimes when wisdom teeth are misaligned, it can damage or overcrowd the adjacent molars or may damage nearby nerves or even the jawbone. Another common problem with wisdom teeth is when they become impacted.
What Happens When Wisdom Teeth Are Impacted?
If wisdom teeth are impacted, then they are stuck in your gum or jawbone and may be unable to erupt or will only partially erupt. When a wisdom tooth partially erupts, the risk of infection is significantly increased because the tooth remains partly covered by gum which can easily trap bacteria.
When the gum around a partially erupted wisdom tooth becomes infected, it can cause a disease called pericoronitis. Infected gum tissue is one of the most common reasons for removing a partially erupted wisdom tooth, and the infection can cause pain, jaw stiffness, swelling and a general feeling of being unwell. However, it’s important to realize that sometimes pericoronitis may only cause mild symptoms or some patients may have no signs at all, but the infection can still cause problems. Often it is challenging to keep partially erupted wisdom teeth properly clean. Because of their location right at the back of the mouth, they are awkward to brush and floss properly and are more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. Another reason for removing wisdom teeth is if a cyst begins to form around the tooth.
What Happens If a Cyst Forms around a Wisdom Tooth?
When your teeth are first forming, they begin to grow in something like a sac and very occasionally this can become filled with fluid and will expand, a bit like a balloon. If this happens, it’s called a cyst, and over time it can grow larger and larger and may cause problems. Cysts need to be removed as otherwise, they can damage teeth, nerves and the jawbone, but it is relatively rare to develop a cyst.
What Are the Symptoms of Wisdom Tooth Problems?
If you do have problems with your wisdom teeth, then sometimes there may be no signs anything is wrong, but otherwise, an impacted tooth may become infected and will cause some unpleasant symptoms. You might notice the gum near or around your wisdom tooth has become red or swollen or has begun to bleed. Bad breath is another common symptom, and you could notice you have a persistently unpleasant taste in your mouth. In the case of a severe infection, you might find it more difficult to open your mouth and your jaw may look swollen or will feel painful.
We Keep a Close Eye on the Development of Wisdom Teeth
If your wisdom teeth have yet to erupt or if you have children who are yet to get their wisdom teeth, then don’t worry. Our dentist Dr. Scott Shumway will keep a close eye on the development of your wisdom teeth during dental exams. It’s one of the reasons why we like to take regular dental x-rays to monitor the position of wisdom teeth in your jaw and to decide if they can come through naturally and without any problems. Digital dental x-rays provide a great deal of information so that these teeth can be accurately assessed. In the past, wisdom teeth were often routinely removed as a sort of rite of passage into adulthood, regardless of whether they would cause problems. Nowadays dentists take a more measured approach toward extracting a wisdom tooth, only removing these teeth if there is no hope they can come through without causing pain or discomfort or damaging other teeth.
When to Remove Wisdom Teeth?
If your wisdom teeth do need to be removed, then it’s best to have them taken out sooner rather than later. When you are younger, then the jawbone is slightly softer and hasn’t had time to fuse with these teeth, so it’s somewhat easier and more comfortable to have them removed. However, if you are older and do need your wisdom teeth taken out, then there is no need to be concerned as Dr. Shumway will ensure the procedure is as smooth and as comfortable as possible. If needed, additional sedation can be provided during your oral surgery.
Typically, after wisdom teeth are taken out healing is smooth and uneventful, and you will be given precise instructions on how to care for your mouth during the first few days of healing. It’s rare for any problems to develop, but of course, the team here at Spokane Family Smiles is always here to assist you and your family.