Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that the majority of people get in their late teens or early twenties. The problem with wisdom teeth is they are often misaligned. Poor alignment can crowd or damage adjacent teeth, the jawbone, and/or nerves. This is why they require removal.
Wisdom teeth become misaligned when they grow in:
- Angled toward or away from the second molars
- Angled inward or outward
When wisdom teeth are impacted, they are trapped within soft tissue and/or the jawbone. They may also only partially break through the gums. Partial eruption leaves an opening for bacteria to enter and cause an infection. The infection can then result in swelling, pain, a stiff jaw, and general illness. This can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease because the awkward positioning makes it very difficult to brush or floss properly.
How do I know if I have wisdom teeth?
Your dentist can take an x-ray, which will show if they are present. It will also show how they are growing in. Your dentist may also recommend that you see an oral surgeon who will be able to further evaluate your situation.
Will the surgeon want to remove my wisdom teeth?
If your teeth are showing signs of future problems, the surgeon will often recommend that they be extracted. If the procedure is put off too long, it could become more painful and/or complicated, so it is wise to get them removed sooner than later. As the saying goes “It is better to be proactive than reactive”.
Removal is easier for younger patients (ages 17 to 21), as the roots of the wisdom teeth are not fully formed yet. The bone is also less dense, as compared to older patients. As with other surgeries, younger people often heal faster as well.
Wisdom teeth should be removed as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:
- Infection of soft tissue
- Gum disease
- Cysts (fluid-filled sacs)
- Damage to nearby teeth
- Extensive tooth decay