Wisdom Teeth... Do I Need Them Removed?
The dreaded wisdom tooth has developed itself a bad name, and for good reason. It's responsible for many a toothache. Believe it or not, some people have no trouble what-so-ever with theirs. So... do YOU need yours out?
Do I have wisdom teeth?
Some people do not grow wisdom teeth. Many people have wisdom teeth sitting underneath the gum and are unaware of their existence. To check for wisdom teeth a full mouth x-ray, commonly called an OPG, is taken.
When do wisdom teeth become a problem?
Wisdom teeth most commonly cause an issue for patients aged 16 to 25. If you are over 25 the risk of wisdom tooth pain is low.
Why are wisdom teeth a problem?
If wisdom teeth are well aligned with the other teeth and there is adequate room in the jaw to accommodate them, they generally do not cause issues and there is no reason for these to be removed. If wisdom teeth are poorly aligned with the other teeth and/or there is insufficient room in the jaw to accommodate them wisdom teeth often become impacted and can cause pain and infection.
These are the common issues caused by impacted wisdom teeth:
If a wisdom tooth is part of the way through the gum but there isn't enough room for it to come all the way through then a pocket is formed between the gum and the tooth. This pocket fills with food, plaque and bacteria which causes an infection of the gum. This is called pericoronitis and is very painful. Common symptoms are an ache in the area of the wisdom tooth, a bad taste in the mouth, limited ability to open the mouth and swelling of the tissues in the area. Without treatment the condition will most likely persist. Symptoms are often brought on or worsened by stress. We commonly see this condition in students studying for exams. The treatment for pericoronitis is usually extraction of the wisdom tooth. This may not be done immediately. Your dentist may clean out the pocket and prescribe antibiotics and a chlorhexidine mouthwash to alleviate symptoms prior to an extraction.
Resorption of the adjacent tooth
If a wisdom tooth is impacted and pushing into the back of the next tooth this can cause resorption of the adjacent tooth which can result in a toothache and in severe cases may result in loss of the tooth next door. An impacted tooth can apply forward pressure on the other teeth and it is thought that this can cause crowding of the teeth. This is especially a concern for patients who have had braces. In the case of impacted wisdom teeth extraction is often considered to avoid future problems.
Decay in the adjacent tooth
If a wisdom tooth comes all the way through the gum but is on an unusual angle or is so far back that it is not possible to keep the tooth clean then the tooth is at a high risk of dental decay and may also put the adjacent tooth at a high risk of decay. In this situation your dental hygienist can help with techniques to keep the area clean or if this is not possible your dentist will discuss with you the options of tooth removal or monitoring of the tooth.
Can my dentist remove my wisdom teeth?
In some circumstances yes. If the extractions are complicated your dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon for the treatment.
What should I do if I am worried about my wisdom teeth?
Talk to your dentist. Everyone is different and there is no one solution that is right for everyone. Assessing wisdom teeth early is a good way to be proactive in avoiding problems. Your dentist can assess the risks and benefits of treatment with you and help you make the best decision for your circumstances.