Impacted wisdom teeth can be seriously painful, which is reason enough for many patients to have them extracted.
However, impaction doesn’t always cause pain. Some patients don’t learn that their third molars are stuck in the gums until they see their dental X-rays — and most are puzzled when the oral surgeon recommends tooth extraction.
Why remove impacted wisdom teeth that aren’t causing a problem? Because leaving them in puts you at risk for several serious oral health problems.
No. 1: Tooth Misalignment
Pressure from an impacted wisdom tooth can create problems for the nearby teeth, crowding them and pushing them into growing crooked.
Minor tooth misalignment might not seem like a big deal — particularly if the issue isn’t easily visible or making it difficult to eat — but any misalignment can lead to the need for extensive orthodontic treatment or oral surgery down the line.
No. 2: Tooth Damage
Skip extraction, and an impacted wisdom tooth could end up damaging the nearby teeth or their roots.
Impacted third molars often emerge at an angle, growing directly into their neighbors and leaving them at greater risk of future problems. Wisdom teeth can also erupt horizontally, causing damage to the adjacent second molars in the form of root resorption.
No. 3: Tooth Decay
While any tooth can get a cavity, extensive decay is more likely in impacted third molars.
Cleaning the rear of the mouth properly is already a challenge — and wisdom tooth impaction amps up the difficulty. The gums surrounding partially erupted teeth are traps for food and bacteria, and any accumulation can create tooth decay. Left untreated, the decay can easily spread throughout the mouth.
No. 4: Oral Infection
Without extraction, an impacted wisdom tooth boosts the risk for pericoronitis, a painful oral infection.
The gum pockets around impacted third molars are like open doors for infection-causing bacteria. When bacteria isn’t brushed or flossed completely away — which, again, is quite difficult with tooth impaction — it can easily make its home under a flap of gum tissue.
Pericoronitis is the result, and the infection can spread beyond the wisdom tooth region.
No. 5: Cyst Development
Leaving an impacted wisdom tooth in place can lead to the development of an oral cyst — a fluid-filled pouch in the jawbone.
Cysts can become infected and inflamed, a painful condition known as a tooth abscess. And even if infection doesn’t set in, a cyst can keep growing to the point where it causes structural damage to the nearby teeth, jawbone and nerves.
Do you have impacted wisdom teeth? Find out for sure — and learn more about your potential for future oral health problems — from the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, our board-certified oral surgeons, have more than 10 years of experience in wisdom tooth management. We’re committed to compassionate care, and the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah team will do everything possible to make sure you have a comfortable, pain-free tooth extraction experience.
Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to schedule a consultation to discuss impacted wisdom teeth.