Certain studies have deemed wisdom teeth as vestigial organs. However, opinions on wisdom teeth removal remain mixed. The field of dentistry has yet to form a definite conclusion regarding whether or not removal is an absolute necessity.
If your wisdom teeth are erupting or have been causing you problems, you may be wondering whether you should get rid of them or not. Here are some tidbits on wisdom teeth to help you with your decision before you go to a dentist.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or the third molars, are the last adult teeth to erupt. People typically have 4 wisdom teeth coming in. They usually develop between the ages of 17 and 21. The term “wisdom teeth” was coined due to the fact that third molars appear when you are older and perhaps “wiser”.
Why Do We Have Third Molars?
As with other parts of the body, teeth are classified by placement and function. With humans being omnivores, nature has granted us with four different kinds of teeth:
- Incisors – These are the first 4 front teeth located in both upper and lower jaws. Their primary function is to cut food.
- Canines – These teeth follow the incisors. We have four in total and their main responsibility is to tear food.
- Premolars (Bicuspids) – There are 8 of these in total. They are mainly for crushing food.
- Molars – These are the last set of teeth located at the back of your mouth. There 12 in total, including the 4 third molars. These molars have broader and flatter surfaces that help grind food.
When Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Unnecessary?
Tooth extractions can be a costly and painful process, especially when dealing with wisdom teeth. Due to the location of the tooth, it’s difficult for dentists to perform extractions and sometimes, the patient may need to get an X-ray first.
This is why some dentists recommend keeping the third molars if:
- The teeth are completely healthy.
- The wisdom teeth growing in have completely or fully erupted.
- They are positioned correctly and working properly with other teeth.
- They can be cleaned properly.
When Is Extraction Necessary?
While third molars grow normally for some people, it’s not the same case for others. For most dentists, wisdom teeth are often unpredictable and carry the potential risk of complications.
For this reason, some dentists recommend removing healthy wisdom teeth as a precautionary measure. Also, as wisdom teeth age, they become more difficult to remove and may require extensive surgery.
Here are complications that would warrant wisdom teeth to be extracted:
Impacted third molar
An adult normally has a total of 32 teeth, but the mouth sometimes doesn’t have enough room for them. Because of this, the wisdom tooth doesn’t have enough room to grow and develop naturally. As a result, the third molar becomes “impacted” or trapped and erupts at an odd angle causing discomfort and other complications.
Symptoms of wisdom teeth don’t always appear right away, but once they become irritated or infected, they show these signs:
- Bleeding gums
- Wisdom teeth jaw pain
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Great difficulty in opening your mouth
- Swollen gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad breath
Once symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth have manifested, consult your dentist and get ready for a tooth extraction.
Wisdom teeth growing pains
When wisdom teeth start to grow, it can be painful and result in overall discomfort and loss of focus. If this situation does occur, it is recommended to go to the dentist and get a dental X-ray to determine the cause of the pain.
In some cases, an extraction might not be recommended. In this case, patients are advised to take painkillers for wisdom teeth pain relief and allow the problem to correct itself naturally.
Incorrect growth of the third molar can cause certain gaps or pockets in the mouth where bacteria can fester. Because it is located at the far back, it is often out of reach for most teeth cleaning devices. Left unattended, cavities will occur and eventually lead to infection.
Once cavities develop in the wisdom tooth, it is recommended the tooth be extracted to prevent cavities from spreading.
Wisdom teeth in the upper jaw can have an adverse effect on the sinuses. This occurs when the roots of the third molar push and rub against the sinuses, putting pressure on them. Eventually, this can result in sinus pain, pressure, headaches, and congestions.
Irregular growth of wisdom teeth can result in the formation of hollow areas called sacs. Cysts in teeth usually develop when a sac found next to the teeth fills with fluid.
If the cyst goes untreated, it can inflict severe damage to surrounding structures and the roots. In severe cases, the cyst will eventually turn into a tumour that will require specialized surgery to remove.
Pain when eating
Similar to cavities, incorrect wisdom teeth growth can result in gaps where food can get stuck. Once this happens, you will experience pain every time you chew your food or even some discomfort as long as the food remains in the gap.
Consulting a dentist might provide a solution to this problem, but if there’s no other way, the tooth needs to be removed.
In connection with the aforementioned complications, it is extremely difficult to clean the area around the third molar. Because of this, plaque is allowed to grow around the area and will result in the gums becoming irritated and swollen and that often leads to more complicated issues of gum disease:
- Gingivitis -This is the first stage of gum disease characterized by the patient having bad breath and bleeding gums.
- Periodontitis – If gingivitis is not treated right away, it will develop into the second stage called periodontitis. This condition directly affects the tissues that hold the teeth in place. Left untreated, your jawbones will incur damage and cause small spaces to open between your gums and teeth. This then leads to your teeth loosening and falling out.
Misalignment of the teeth
This is the aftermath of an impacted wisdom teeth. Due to the already crowded space in the mouth, the third molar pushes the rest of the teeth resulting in misalignment.
Currently, there is no clear way to prevent an impacted molar from occurring. What you can do is to ask your dentist to monitor the growth of your wisdom teeth through regular checkups and getting updated dental X-rays. These will help you anticipate any possible complications and wisdom teeth infection symptoms that might occur and help you make a more informed decision whether to have an extraction or not.
For tooth extractions and other dental services, please contact Cosmo Dental Centre at (519) 659-2767 and schedule a dental appointment today!