What are Wisdom Teeth?
Third molars are the last set of teeth to erupt into the smile line. They earned the nickname “wisdom teeth” because they emerge in the late teens and early twenties when people are said to have reached the age of wisdom. Our ancient ancestors consumed a diet of coarse foods and had little to no dental care, so this last set of teeth often came just in time as previous teeth were damaged or lost at a young age. Today’s refined foods and improved oral hygiene mean the vast majority of people have not lost any teeth by the time their wisdom teeth erupt, and many of these patients’ jaws are not large enough to accommodate this final set of teeth.
What are the possibilities?
Wisdom teeth can present themselves in a variety of fashions, some of which may mean that your dentist will recommend removal. Here we will talk about some of the most common situations and the possible pros and cons of removing the wisdom teeth in each.
Removing Impacted Teeth
Basically, this means that the teeth are stuck beneath the gums. Sometimes impacted wisdom teeth do not cause pain or present any other symptoms. Sometimes, however, they are continuing to grow at a strange angle that puts pressure on your other teeth, causing a range of discomfort and possibly distorting the alignment of your smile.
Pro: Removing wisdom teeth before they become visible can have several benefits. Sometimes impacted teeth lead to pain, cysts, tooth decay, and crowding if the jaw is not large enough to accommodate the extra set of molars. All of these things are preventable or solvable by removing the offending molars.
Con: It is a more involved procedure to remove impacted teeth. While still a minor procedure, the surgery carries a slightly higher risk and longer recovery period.
Removing Erupted Teeth
Don’t worry, this isn’t nearly as disastrous as the word makes it sound. Erupted just means that the tooth as broken through the gums. It is possible for a tooth to be partially erupted, meaning that only a portion of the tooth is showing while the rest remains stuck beneath the gums.
Pro: It is very difficult to keep the back of your mouth clean enough to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, if the wisdom teeth are only partially erupted, it creates a hole in the back of your mouth that can cause a lot of problems with bacteria, infections, and chronic pain. Depending on their angle and the size of the patient’s jaw, erupted wisdom teeth can also cause crowding issues that will require orthodontics.
Con: There is a possibility that the surgery would have been unnecessary. While according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 85% of wisdom teeth will require removal, there are a lucky few can retain these extra molars without detriment.
Wait and See
Patients who are not experiencing any pain associated with their wisdom teeth often wonder if it is better to preemptively remove them or wait and see if they will cause any problems in the future. Thankfully, your dentist can use x-rays and other tools to help determine the best course of action.
Pro: As mentioned above, some people never experience any issues with their wisdom teeth and removing them would be unnecessary. By waiting, you might avoid a few days of uncomfortable recovery and possible side effects associated with wisdom tooth removal.
Con: Unfortunately, the growth and movement of wisdom teeth can be erratic and it is a very small percentage of people who never experience issues. The damage often begins before any symptoms can be felt and if you wait until you start experiencing pain, there may be other complications that will take additional measures to correct. The continued risk of infection, the formation of cysts, and the damage to surrounding teeth can be avoided by prompt removal of the wisdom teeth.
Your dentist can perform x-rays and other testing to determine if your wisdom teeth will need removed. Going to your regular dental checkups can prevent problems before they happen. Call our offices at Apple Valley Dental to schedule an appointment and our expert staff of technicians and doctors can go over the options with you and discuss what would be best in your particular situation.