Wisdom teeth, or third molars, typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25. They are vestigial teeth, leftover from when humans had to work harder to thoroughly grind food for digestion. However, as the human jaw evolved to become smaller, wisdom tooth eruption can often cause oral health issues like overcrowding, tooth decay, or tooth impaction if they erupt abnormally.
Since they are not necessary for human survival, dentists often suggest wisdom tooth extraction as a preventative measure. However, there are several other reasons you might need your wisdom teeth removed.
Wisdom Tooth Impaction
A normal tooth grows straight up out of the gum. Wisdom teeth usually experience impaction due to a lack of room for proper growth and development. This process causes them to grow at odd angles that place pressure on surrounding teeth and soft tissue.
Occasionally, these teeth can suffer an inflammatory disease characterized by pain and swelling that can damage or destroy adjacent teeth and bone.
Cysts, fluid-filled sacs caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, can form on wisdom teeth that do not properly erupt even when you have a proper oral hygiene routine. Cysts can cause intense pain and swelling.
Treatment may include a root canal, opening the gum to remove the cyst, or tooth extraction. If you have a partially erupted wisdom tooth, discuss the options with your dentist.
Infection or Decay
Infections in the wisdom teeth can be caused by impactions where the tooth partially erupted or the crowding of surrounding teeth, making cleaning the tooth challenging.
Sometimes the infection occurs in the soft tissue surrounding the wisdom tooth. Pericoronitis occurs when food particles become trapped under the gum flap at the back of the dental arch, leading to bacterial infection.
Periodontal Disease and Bone Loss
Because wisdom teeth are often crowded, proper oral hygiene can be difficult. Studies show that removing crowded wisdom teeth can improve periodontal health in adjacent teeth and prevent misalignment in the front incisors and canines.
Bone loss decreases the stability of your teeth. An impacted wisdom tooth may put excessive pressure on a tooth with bone loss, causing it to become misaligned and leading to problems chewing.
Prevention of Future Issues
Your dentist may decide removing one or more of your wisdom teeth is the best course of action for your oral health. Impacted teeth and teeth with no counterpart on the opposing arch are the most likely to lead to future problems, including infection, cysts, and gum disease.
Tumors in the jaw, though rare, may require a wisdom tooth extraction to remove the tumor properly. These tumors range from benign to malignant and slow-growing to aggressive and must be biopsied or removed to ensure a proper treatment plan.
Your dentist may discover a suspect area on an X-ray and order more tests. Swelling is the main symptom of tumors, and some types also cause pain.
Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Right for You?
If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, periodontal disease, crowded teeth, or an infection, discuss the benefits of wisdom teeth removal with our experienced TruBlu Dentistry staff. We provide oral health services for all your dental needs at two convenient locations.