Impacted wisdom teeth don’t always cause pain and swollen gums. In fact, some patients never experience any symptoms.
But even for asymptomatic patients, oral surgeons typically advise removing impacted teeth because of the potential problems they can cause. Until impacted wisdom teeth are removed, patients face four specific — and highly unpleasant — oral health risks.
Risk No. 1: Damage to Other Teeth
When the wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are impacted, they don’t have enough space to break through the gums properly.
When they begin to emerge, they come in at an angle, pushing against nearby teeth. This can damage the second molars and leave them more susceptible to infection.
In addition, pressure from impacted wisdom teeth can cause crowding of the other teeth. Crowding can lead to tooth misalignment, which could lead to the need for oral surgery or extensive orthodontic treatment.
Risk No. 2: Extensive Tooth Decay
All teeth are susceptible to cavities, but impacted third molars face a far greater risk of developing extensive decay.
The back of the mouth is difficult to clean properly, and impacted teeth make the problem worse. Food and bacteria get trapped in the gum tissue surrounding a partially erupted wisdom tooth, and the hard-to-reach area can be next to impossible to brush and floss thoroughly.
Tooth decay is the result, which can be hard to spot without a full oral health exam. Even worse, this decay can quickly and easily spread to other teeth if left untreated.
Risk No. 3: Pericoronitis
Aside from tooth decay, the difficulty of cleaning impacted, partially emerged wisdom teeth can lead to another problem — a painful inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis.
Openings in the gums around impacted teeth are vulnerable entry points for infection-causing bacteria. Pericoronitis develops when these bacteria become stuck under a flap of gum tissue. Without proper treatment, infection can spread beyond the wisdom tooth area to the jaw, cheeks and neck.
Risk No. 4: Oral Cysts
Impacted wisdom teeth can also be afflicted with oral cysts.
Each wisdom tooth develops in its own sac of tissue in the jawbone. When the tooth becomes impacted, the sac can fill with fluid and form a cyst.
An oral cyst can become infected, causing pain and swelling, a condition known as an abscess. But even small, benign wisdom tooth cysts often require surgical treatment.
Oral cysts can grow over time, eventually causing structural damage to the jawbone, nearby teeth and nerves. In rare cases, a tumor may develop. While usually noncancerous, this type of tumor typically requires oral surgery to remove tissue and bone.
Don’t wait for wisdom tooth problems to develop. Oral surgeons recommend that all young adults schedule a proactive evaluation to determine the potential for risks. Schedule yours with the experienced professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah, a regional leader in the treatment of symptomatic and impacted wisdom teeth.
To schedule your comprehensive evaluation of your wisdom teeth, contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today.