Do you really need to have your wisdom teeth removed?
Our patients often wonder this, especially those who aren’t keen on the idea of extraction.
If your wisdom teeth are healthy and growing properly, they likely won’t need to be removed. But in many cases, we do recommend preemptive extraction to prevent complications in the future.
Holding on to problematic third molars may not be an option, however, if you have already begun to experience certain dental problems. Following are a few of the most common indications that it’s time to consider wisdom tooth extraction.
Gum Disease Related to the Wisdom Teeth
Because of their location at the rear of the mouth, the wisdom teeth (or third molars) are more difficult to care for properly. And in many people, these teeth do not fully erupt from below the gumline.
Either of these situations creates an increased risk for developing gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Periodontitis is a common cause of tooth loss, as damage occurs to both the soft tissue and underlying bone.
Periodontitis also can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other health issues.
When gum disease is present, removal of the third molars is almost always recommended. Periodontitis is not an isolated event, and the damage that occurs to the gum and supporting bone impacts the adjacent teeth as well.
Gum disease can spread quickly, leading to further problems in other parts of the mouth.
Chronic Wisdom Tooth Pain
Pain prompts many people to consider tooth extraction.
According to research from the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 37 percent of patients seeking treatment for wisdom teeth problems do so because of pain and inflammation.
The study also found that pain, swelling and discomfort are reported more frequently by patients older than 25.
Pain in the third molars can sometimes be caused by the eruption process. After childhood, your gums become harder, making it difficult for these teeth to break through.
Pain also may be caused when these problematic teeth become impacted, or unable to erupt. Impacted teeth can place pressure on the nerves, causing intermittent pain in the mouth or neck, earache and headaches.
The teeth also may hurt if the gums or jawbone become infected.
Poorly Positioned Wisdom Teeth
The third molars don’t always grow in correctly, and often their positioning can cause complications.
These teeth sometimes erupt at an angle, and crooked growth can cause the third molars to poke or bite the cheeks. They may also emerge abnormally, leaving a flap or collar of gum tissue over the surface. This can cause chronic inflammation due to the continual damage caused by chewing, speaking or clenching the jaw.
In some cases, tissue irritation and trauma to the gums and cheeks occurs when the third molars emerge farther than normal. This can happen when these molars do not have opposing teeth to bite against.
As you may have concluded, extraction is necessary for most people whose wisdom teeth are poorly positioned or abnormal in any way. However, every mouth is different, and we will only recommend a procedure if it’s necessary for your future oral health.
In the Salt Lake City area and throughout northern Utah, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah is the premier provider of specialized oral care. Contact us today to schedule your consultation for an evaluation of your wisdom teeth.