6 Signs You Might Need to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
By the time wisdom teeth form, the other permanent teeth have already established their position in the mouth—often leaving little to no room for any more teeth. As a result, wisdom teeth can become “impacted” in bone or gum tissue- ie., unable to fully erupt into normal position. This often results in bacteria traps that can cause infections of the gingiva or bone. We know that there is clear evidence that impacted wisdom teeth cause bone loss around and damage to the adjacent molars (the 12-year molars). There used to be the thought that impacted wisdom teeth would “push” the teeth in front of them and result in crowding. Based on many well-designed studies, we now know that there is no evidence to support that claim.
A major thing to consider when planning to remove wisdom teeth is the anatomy of the developing wisdom teeth. There is clear evidence that removing the wisdom teeth earlier in their development (i.e., before the roots are allowed to appreciably form) usually results in a far lower number of complications and much more predictable healing. As oral surgeons, we evaluate the stage of formation of the teeth as well as the anatomical position of the teeth in the upper and lower jaws when deciding the best time for removal. There is no magical “age” that is best for removing wisdom teeth. Each patient needs to be evaluated as an individual. Regular dental check-ups with periodic x-rays can help monitor the development of wisdom teeth. Please note that even if you are not currently experiencing discomfort, you may still require treatment as some types of pathology show no symptoms at all. There is a fairly common saying: “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”. This is particularly true when considering the potential issues associated with impacted wisdom teeth.
Here are 6 common signs that you may require wisdom teeth removal:
- Sensitivity & Pain in the Back of Your Mouth
Whether it’s eating, brushing your teeth or doing nothing at all, if you begin to experience pain, sensitivity or a slight throbbing sensation, you should schedule an appointment to have them evaluated. Pain associated with the teeth should never be ignored. A dental issue that causes pain can often be remedied with a straightforward procedure if addressed quickly. But when left untreated that same issue can quickly progress to something that requires a much more involved treatment. A common example would be a simple cavity that can be treated with a small filling/restoration. That simple cavity can quickly progress if left untreated and become large enough to require a crown. Further progression could lead to needing Root Canal Therapy. Even further progression may render the tooth non-restorable and result in the need for extraction. With wisdom teeth initial pain may progress to severe pain and ultimately to a serious infection.
- Inflammation Around the Gums
When wisdom teeth begin to emerge, they can create a flap of gum tissue behind your 12-year molars that traps particles of food and bacteria. When the tissue around the tooth becomes irritated and inflamed, it can appear as slightly swollen, reddish areas along the gum line that are sore to the touch and can make it challenging to properly brush. Known as pericoronitis, this condition can occur around wisdom teeth that are still underneath your gums, and is one of the most common reasons patients seek care for wisdom teeth. As oral surgeons, we hope to prevent you from getting to this point with early evaluation with proper exam and radiographs.
- Bad Breath / Bad taste in the Mouth
The delicate gums surrounding impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth are difficult to clean, which results in trapped food and bacterial plaque that can lead to infection. The resulting wound-infecting bacteria releases sulfur compounds that can create extremely bad breath or a constant unpleasant taste in your mouth.
- Cysts Develop in Your Mouth
If symptoms of wisdom teeth are ignored, cysts can begin to develop. Cysts are sacs that surround the crown of the tooth and were responsible for tooth formation. These sacs become filled with fluid. If left untreated, cysts can destroy bone, roots and surrounding structures and potentially develop into various tumors requiring additional surgery.
- Stiffness & Pain in Jaw
When wisdom teeth grow, and they are allowed to erupt into an improper position into the mouth, they can start to interfere with the way your teeth normally bite together. As a result, you may experience muscle stiffness and pain in the jaw area. Difficulty opening and moving your mouth and jaw can also be indicators. If left untreated, an improperly aligned bite can and often does lead to significant TMJ issues.
- Sinus Problems
Sinus issues can be sometimes linked to dental issues, including wisdom teeth. When teeth grow in the upper jaw, developing roots can deform the bony sinus floor. This can lead to sinus pain, pressure, headaches and congestion.
Wisdom teeth extractions are one of the most common dental procedures. For your benefit and health, we encourage you to have your wisdom teeth evaluated by an oral surgeon before you experience any of the above signs or symptoms.
We understand that no one wants to spend precious summer hours undergoing and recovering from oral surgery, but if it has to be done there’s no better time than summer! We recommend taking a few days off from work or school to rest after your wisdom teeth are removed and, since most of us currently have more down-time than usual, why not get this taken care of?
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