Many have told frightening tales about wisdom tooth removal and the painful recovery, so you may naturally feel apprehensive about getting yours removed. Extracting wisdom teeth is a very common dental procedure; about 85 percent of the general population get their wisdom teeth removed because this third set of adult molars can cause painful dental problems.
How do you know if your wisdom teeth should be removed? This guide can help you learn about wisdom teeth and the symptoms that indicate your wisdom teeth will only cause pain and damage.
Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to erupt in your mouth. It takes years for the teeth to develop under the gum, and even after they emerge, the roots continue to deepen and develop. Dentists carefully watch wisdom tooth development on teenage x-rays because even early growth patterns can indicate whether or not the teeth will cause problems later on.
Unfortunately, these teeth are often too large for the space left in your mouth. As a result, the teeth can grow forward, backward, or sideways instead of straight. When this happens, your dentist may refer to the tooth as “impacted”–– meaning the tooth cannot fully emerge and function as a proper molar because your other teeth are in the way.
Impacted teeth should be taken very seriously. They cannot grow properly, so the pressure can have devastating effects on neighboring teeth or even on your jaw bone. The impacted tooth can develop severe decay, introduce infected abscesses, or even cause the destruction of neighboring molars.
It’s when teeth are impacted or have the possibility of becoming impacted that your dentist will often recommend removal. However, impacted teeth are not the only reason why wisdom teeth are often troublesome. They can also cause:
- Increased risk of decay. These teeth are at the very back of your mouth. Even if you have room in your mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth, they are challenging to brush and floss well.
- Trouble with your bite. Sometimes wisdom teeth grow in straight, but they still can affect the alignment of how the rest of your teeth fit together when chewing. Your bite will be affected, especially if you’ve had braces.
- Unforeseen problems. Your teeth may feel fine for several years before the roots deepen and strengthen enough to cause pain. By this time, however, extraction is much more challenging because the bone has more fully hardened around the now large wisdom tooth.
- Difficulty chewing. You get used to the way your teeth feel in your mouth. Suddenly, with new molars, it is easier to accidentally bite your tongue or cheek when you chew or even when you talk.
Generally, most people elect to remove their wisdom teeth just to prevent the more painful or irritating dental problems the teeth could cause later.
Some people feel immediate pain as their wisdom teeth start to grow larger and move closer to the surface. Others don’t feel anything at all. However, you should contact your dentist if you experience:
- Persistent headaches. The pressure of growing wisdom teeth can intense headaches. Even if you have no pain in your mouth, headaches are often a sign that your teeth need to be removed.
- Difficulty chewing. You should always be able to chew your food pain-free. If trouble chewing occurs in conjunction with wisdom teeth growth, your dentist should take a current x-ray to find out if your wisdom teeth are starting to become impacted.
- Bleeding in the gums. Sometimes gums can bleed when you brush, but this is only when your dental hygiene has been poor. Impacted wisdom teeth cause your gums to become inflamed, and they will bleed easily when you brush or even when you chew your food.
- Stiffness in your neck or jaw. You might not have pain, but impacted teeth do still affect your nerves. You may feel some discomfort when opening your mouth or when turning your head side to side.
- Bad flavors in your mouth when your food should taste good. This is a sign of an infection that has significantly progressed around a tooth.
Any of these more advanced symptoms almost always mean you will need wisdom tooth extraction.
Maintaining Wisdom Teeth
If you’ve managed to escape the above risks and problems, you are one of the lucky few who may avoid wisdom tooth extraction. However, it’s still important that you take the time to brush carefully, as these teeth are still more prone to cavities. You should practice exemplary dental hygiene to keep these teeth healthy.
Your dentist may also recommend keeping your wisdom teeth if you have temporomandibular disorder because removing wisdom teeth that are not causing major problems can make symptoms worse.
For more information on wisdom tooth problems and removal, contact Valley Oak Dental Group Inc.