As the last set of teeth begin to emerge in your late teens or early twenties, there is a risk that you may not sufficient space in your mouth to accommodate these 4 wisdom teeth, which can lead to a number of oral health issues, from impacted or infected teeth to damaging surrounding teeth or gums.
In fact, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends that wisdom teeth be evaluated for removal by the age of 18, even when you have no symptoms yet.
This is because the roots of your wisdom teeth mature with age, becoming more firmly anchored to the bone, which makes removal more difficult, increases the risk of complications, and slows down healing (people naturally heal slower as they age).
Let’s look at these problems in more detail:
Reasons for wisdom teeth removal
Risk of teeth crowding
One of the primary reasons that wisdom teeth are often removed is because they can cause crowding in the mouth. This can result in misalignment of the teeth, making it more difficult to maintain proper oral hygiene and leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. In some cases, wisdom teeth may also push against adjacent teeth, causing pain and discomfort.
Wisdom teeth can also become impacted, which means that they are unable to emerge from the gumline. This can lead to infection and inflammation, and can also cause damage to adjacent teeth, and swelling and tenderness in the gums surrounding the tooth, as well as pain and difficulty opening the mouth. Additionally, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to the formation of cysts or tumors, which can cause further damage to the jawbone and adjacent teeth.
Misalignment of other teeth
Wisdom teeth can push against neighboring teeth as they emerge, causing them to shift or become misaligned. This can lead to problems with bite and alignment, which can affect the overall health and function of your teeth and jaw.
Wisdom teeth located in the upper jaw can sometimes grow towards the sinuses, which are air-filled spaces located behind your cheekbones and forehead. If the roots of the wisdom teeth press against the sinuses, it can cause pain, pressure, and sinus infections, or even puncture a hole in the sinus, leading to other complications.
The tissue around the wisdom teeth may become inflamed and difficult to clean, which can lead to cavities and bacterial growth.
Foreseen oral health issues
Another reason why wisdom teeth may be removed is to prevent the development of oral health issues later in life. While a person may not experience any problems with their wisdom teeth during their teenage or young adult years, they may be at increased risk of developing issues such as decay, gum disease, or infection later on. By removing wisdom teeth early, a person can reduce their risk of developing these issues.
Alternatives to wisdom tooth extraction
There are some instances when the position of your wisdom tooth roots may make removal highly risky, resulting in higher risk for complications. Surgical extraction may also not be recommended because of a certain health problem.
In such cases, your dentist may offer the following options depending on the specific symptoms caused by your wisdom teeth:
If the wisdom teeth are not causing any problems and are not impacting oral health, they can be left alone but monitored with regular dental check-ups and x-rays to look for signs of complications
- Orthodontic treatment
In some cases, the orthodontic treatment can be used to create space in the mouth and prevent the need for wisdom teeth extraction.
- Partial extraction
Depending on the specific case, only a portion of the wisdom tooth may need to be removed, which can preserve some of the tooth’s functionality.
If the wisdom teeth are causing pain or inflammation, medications such as painkillers and antibiotics can be used to manage the symptoms and kill tooth nerve pain.
- Laser therapy
Laser therapy can be used to remove infected tissue around the wisdom teeth while preserving the tooth’s structure.
- Minor surgery (operculectomy)
This minor dental surgical procedure involves the removal of the operculum, which is a flap of tissue that covers a partially erupted tooth. It is commonly performed on the wisdom teeth when they partially erupt and cause pain, swelling, and inflammation due to the accumulation of food and bacteria beneath the operculum.
Operculectomy can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of a partially erupted wisdom tooth, but it does not address the underlying issue of the tooth’s potential for causing future complications. In cases where the wisdom tooth is impacted or causing damage to nearby teeth, wisdom tooth extraction is the recommended course of action.
Wisdom teeth are typically removed as part of preventative dentistry, before any issues arise and lead to complications. Extraction can help to prevent crowding, misalignment, infection, inflammation, damage to adjacent teeth and gums, and the development of oral health issues later in life.
It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits, as well as after care instructions for wisdom tooth removal with your dentist or oral surgeon to determine the best course of action for your individual situation.