Are Wisdom Teeth Silently Risking Your Health?

At some point we’ve all been told by our dentist that we will need to have our wisdom teeth taken out. If you’re like most of us you were probably thinking “why doc, they don’t bother me, can we just wait?” What we as dentists want our patients to most understand is pain free doesn’t mean problem free!

Third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, are the teeth in the back corners of the mouth that start to erupt in the late teens early twenties. The problem arises because most often they do not erupt in the ideal position. They tend to erupt sideways, tilted, or even only partially and can become trapped under gum tissue or other teeth. Wisdom teeth need to be removed when they are unable to erupt properly in the mouth. The “impacted” teeth may pose several health risks including gum disease, decay on the back of adjacent teeth, persistent swelling and inflammation and even cysts or tumors around the roots. Partially impacted teeth are huge problem allowing bacteria and food debris to get caught under the gums and cause constant irritation, odor and decay.

Third molars can often push adjacent teeth out of alignment, altering a patients jaw and bite alignment. In fact, many orthodontists require all third molar removal before beginning orthodontic treatment to minimize the risk of relapse later in life. You may be wondering when the best time to remove the wisdom teeth then is. In general they can be removed any time, but young adults have incomplete root development making the surgery uncomplicated. As we age and the roots grow, they can become tangled around sensory nerves that supply sensation to the lips and face.

Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted, but it is an important conversation to have with your dentist and oral surgeon for the most appropriate management strategy.