Dental Problems When Wisdom Teeth Are Not Removed
Wisdom teeth can cause multiple dental issues. In many cases, they grow in at the wrong angle, remaining enclosed by the gums or only partially emerging through the gum line. They can also shift other teeth out of position.
Dental problems when wisdom teeth are not removed arise because the human jaw bone has shrunk with evolution while the size and shape of our teeth have seen little change. The result: lack of space for this third and final set of molars, which typically appear in the late teens or early 20's. Ninety percent of people don’t have sufficient room in their mouth for wisdom teeth.
Besides problems in your mouth and jaw, bothersome wisdom teeth can also damage your overall health. Infection caused by a wisdom tooth can spread to other areas of your body, including the brain, lungs or heart.
Sixty-five percent of people have wisdom teeth. The number of wisdom teeth can vary from one to four. In rare instances, more than four wisdom teeth may develop. Studies in 2012 showed how wisdom teeth can be problematic without initially displaying any symptoms.
Research into over 400 people with wisdom teeth discovered that more than half had gaps between the gums and teeth of at least four millimeters deep. These periodontal pockets should be no more than three millimeters deep. Otherwise, they can harbor bacteria and may indicate the beginning of bone loss.
What are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
The condition in which wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally is known as impaction. Impacted wisdom teeth can be painful and damage other teeth. Furthermore, because impacted wisdom teeth are difficult to clean, they can be more susceptible to cavities and infection of the surrounding gum.
A wisdom tooth may be partially impacted or never erupt through the gums (fully impacted). In both cases, these teeth can:
- Grow toward the rear of the mouth.
- Encroach on the adjacent tooth (second molar).
- Remain within the jaw at a right-angle to other teeth.
- Grow straight but stay trapped in the jaw.
If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Swollen or red gums.
- Bleeding or tender gums.
- Jaw pain.
- Swelling of the jaw.
- Bad breath.
- Bad taste in your mouth.
- Trouble opening your mouth.
Problems Associated with Troublesome Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to many dental problems, including:
Damage to other teeth. If a wisdom tooth pushes against a second molar, it may damage it or heighten the likelihood of infection in the area. This pressure can also cause crowding of teeth.
Cysts. The sac that a wisdom tooth develops in can fill with fluid, creating a cyst that can damage the jaw, nerves, and teeth.
Cavities. Partially-impacted wisdom teeth are thought to be at greater risk of tooth decay than other teeth. This is probably because these wisdom teeth are harder to clean, while bacteria and food debris can easily get trapped between the tooth and gum.
Gum infection. The difficulty of cleaning partially-erupted wisdom teeth increases the risk of a gum infection called pericoronitis.
Abscess – an accumulation of pus in your wisdom teeth or surrounding tissue.
Other problems associated with wisdom teeth include:
Sinus issues. Roots of upper wisdom teeth can compress sinuses – mucus-lined cavities. This can cause inflammation, congestion, and headaches.
Cellulitis – A bacterial infection in the throat, cheek or tongue.
Even if impacted wisdom teeth don’t appear to be causing any immediate problems, dentists may recommend extraction to prevent future issues.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Six-monthly dental examinations will enable your dentist to monitor the development and emergence of wisdom teeth. X-rays may identify impacted wisdom teeth before any symptoms are apparent. If you don’t have wisdom teeth extracted, they will need to be constantly monitored by your dentist.
Today’s diet of softer foods compared with that of our ancestors has made wisdom teeth redundant. Scientists class them as vestigial organs that serve no purpose and believe that wisdom teeth may eventually disappear.
Wisdom teeth that have fully emerged can be extracted relatively easily. However, impacted wisdom teeth are a different matter. One of the most complex extraction procedures is required when a wisdom tooth has become rooted in the bone and has to be removed piece by piece.
Depending on the intricacies of the wisdom tooth extraction, anesthesia will take the form of a local anesthetic, semi-conscious sedation or a general anesthetic. Recovery after removal of a wisdom tooth varies from a couple of weeks to a few months. It depends on the complexity of the procedure, the type of anesthesia, and how much damage has been caused to the rest of your mouth.
Dentists say the best time to extract wisdom teeth is from the ages of 18 to 24 before the roots have fully developed. Removing the wisdom teeth of older people increases the complexity of the procedure, with potential problems such as nerve damage. Recovery time for younger patients is also faster.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends extraction of wisdom teeth in cases of:
- Gum disease.
- Cysts or tumors.
- Cavities or damage to adjacent teeth.
Do My Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Extracted?
The practice of routine extraction of wisdom teeth – whether or not there’s a problem – has become less common in some countries. However, five million people in the U.S. have their wisdom teeth taken out every year.
Ongoing dental problems when wisdom teeth are not removed are common. This is why dentists in the U.S. often remove wisdom teeth as a preventive measure as well as to rectify issues that have already developed. Complications arising from wisdom teeth can sometimes become an emergency situation.
Many U.S. dentists and oral surgeons say extraction of impacted wisdom teeth that are not causing any apparent problems can prevent cavities, gum disease and infection.
If you are debating whether to have your wisdom teeth removed, you can get helpful advice from a dental office experienced in extractions.