It’s estimated that over five million people have their wisdom teeth removed each year. There are many who think this number is way too high. Because of this controversy, it’s important to know when this procedure is really needed.
The question of “when to remove wisdom teeth,” is important. It’s also important to be sure you are making the right decision.
Here you can learn what wisdom teeth are, what they do, and some symptoms it is time to consider removal.
The Purpose and Function of Your Wisdom Teeth
Many refer to wisdom teeth as “evolutionary relics.” The teeth were useful to our ancestors who consumed diets that consisted mainly of rougher foods like reed plants and sticks. As their teeth wore down and eventually fell out, the wisdom teeth provided a replacement.
Today, with the modern advancements in dental care and softer diets, these replacement teeth are a necessity. While this is true, they still grow in.
Eventually, your mouth grows so it can comfortably hold 28 teeth. However, if you count the wisdom teeth, you have 32 teeth trying to find space. This is when problems may arise.
When Do Wisdom Teeth Appear?
If you are like most people, your wisdom teeth will appear when you are between the ages of 17 and 21. It’s a good idea to seek an evaluation from your dentist between the ages of 16 and 19 to determine if the wisdom teeth will cause a problem.
This is also important because as you get older, the bones in your mouth get harder. This makes it much harder to remove the wisdom teeth.
Symptoms of Problems with Your Wisdom Teeth
If your wisdom teeth try to emerge through your gums and become impacted, problems can occur. While this isn’t always the case, it is seen with some people.
If the impacted tooth gets infected, causes dental issues, or damages, you may experience some following symptoms:
- Issues opening your mouth
- Swollen or red gums
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Bleeding or tender gums
- Bad breath
- Swelling around the jaw
- Jaw pain
If you experience these symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact your dentist to have the problem evaluated.
Causes of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are also referred to as the third molars. They may become impacted if there isn’t enough room to grow or develop normally. As mentioned above, wisdom teeth may emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people don’t have any issues.
In other situations, though, the mouth is too crowded for these third molars to develop properly. That’s when the teeth become trapped (i.e. impacted).
Sometimes, wisdom teeth that are impacted will partially emerge so that some crowns can be seen. This is referred to as partially impacted. For other people, the wisdom teeth may remain below the gums, which is called fully impacted.
Regardless of if it is fully or partially impacted, the following issues may occur:
- Grow straight but remain trapped
- Grow at an angle toward another tooth
- Grow at an angle pointing to the back of your mouth
- Grow at a right angle to your other tool in a “lying down” position
In all these situations, your wisdom teeth will probably have to be removed.
Potential Complications Related to Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If your wisdom teeth are impacted and you don’t have them removed, several issues can occur. Some of the most common include:
It’s hard to clean an impacted or partially removed wisdom tooth. This increases the risk of developing an inflammatory and painful gum condition that’s called pericoronitis in that area of the mouth.
When wisdom teeth are partially impacted, they are at a much higher risk for tooth decay than other teeth. This is an issue that usually occurs because your wisdom teeth are harder to clean because bacteria and food can get trapped between the gums and the tooth that is partially erupted.
This occurs if the wisdom tooth develops a sac in the jawbone. The sac may fill up with fluid, which forms a cyst that can damage the nerves, teeth, and jawbone.
In rare cases, a tumor (usually one that is noncancerous) will develop. If the condition isn’t treated, it may require the tooth, tissue, and bone to be removed.
Damage to Nearby Teeth
If your wisdom teeth push against your second molar, it can cause damage to it or increase the risk of infection to that area. The pressure may also cause issues with crowding for other teeth or require orthodontic treatment to straighten the other teeth.
Is it Possible to Prevent Tooth Impaction?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent impaction. However, by keeping your six-month dental appointments for checkups ad cleaning you can ensure your dentist will catch any signs of a problem. Also, the x-rays they take can provide information regarding if issues may arise in the future.
When to Remove Wisdom Teeth: Now You Know
Knowing when to remove wisdom teeth may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. In most cases, it’s your dentist that will let you know when there’s a problem. However, if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to seek a consultation to see if your wisdom teeth are causing issues.
To learn more about the issues wisdom teeth may cause contact us. Besides help with wisdom teeth, we offer an array of other dental services. You can schedule an appointment today or just call to speak with our staff about any questions you have.