What You Need To Know About Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third molars at the back of the mouth.  They usually appear in teenagers and young adults between the ages of 17 and 25.  Although in some people wisdom teeth emerge without any difficulty and naturally line up with the adjacent teeth, in some patients, there is insufficient room for wisdom teeth to erupt normally.  Wisdom teeth are then said to be “impacted” or "partially impacted".  Impacted or partially impacted wisdom teeth are relatively common.

When Do My Wisdom Teeth Have To Be Removed?

Impacted wisdom teeth are not always symptomatic.  Sometimes, x-rays taken at a regular visit to your dentist may reveal that you have an impacted wisdom tooth and you were not even aware of it.  Generally, however, if you have an impacted wisdom tooth, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the jaw in the area of the impacted wisdom tooth.
  • Pain in the gums in the area of the impacted wisdom tooth.
  • Redness or swelling in the area of the impacted wisdom tooth.
  • Referred pain in the areas adjacent to the area of the impacted wisdom tooth.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth.
  • Bad breath.
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Problems With Wisdom Teeth

If a wisdom tooth does not erupt fully with enough room to properly line up with the second molar, the following may occur:

  • The wisdom tooth may not erupt at all, in which case it is said to be impacted.
  • The wisdom tooth may erupt partially, in which case it is said to be partially impacted.
  • Whether partially or fully impacted, it may grow at an angle towards the second molar.
  • Whether partially of fully impacted, it may grow at an angle towards the back of the mouth.
  • A cyst may grow in the area of the wisdom tooth, which may cause damage to the adjacent teeth or even damage your bone in that area.

Why Did My Dentist Recommend That I Remove My Wisdom Tooth?

Your dentist may recommend that your wisdom tooth be removed.  One of the most obvious reasons your dentist may make this recommendation is because the failure to erupt or the incorrectly postured tooth may be causing you pain in your jaw or gums.  Your dentist may also recommend that your wisdom tooth be removed for the following reasons:

  • Decay - If the wisdom tooth is crowded, it may become an area for a food trap to form, increasing the likelihood of decay in the area of the wisdom tooth and its adjacent tooth.
  • Damage to Other Teeth - If there is insufficient room for the wisdom tooth to erupt completely and properly, the wisdom tooth may put pressure on the adjacent molar and may potentially cause damage to that tooth, or increase its risk of infection.  The pressure of the erupting wisdom tooth may also cause other teeth to become crowded and misaligned, thereby potentially requiring orthodontic treatment.
  • Gum Disease - As with the increase risk of tooth decay, there is also an increased risk of gum disease.  If the wisdom tooth is only partially erupted or impacted, it is more difficult to properly clean the area, increasing the risk of the accumulation of bacteria.  This may lead to the development of a painful, inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis.
  • Infection - There may be infection in the area of your wisdom tooth or a cyst, which could be the cause of pain in that area.

Keeping Your Wisdom Teeth

Not everyone has to have their wisdom teeth removed.  If you choose to not remove or delay removing your wisdom teeth, it is essential that you attend at your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups.  As we age, we are at greater risk of health problems and that includes oral health problems, making regular dental check-ups and dental cleanings imperative.  It is also important to keep up with regular home oral hygiene, including flossing and brushing around the areas of the impacted or partially impacted wisdom tooth.

If you think you may be experiencing an issue with your wisdom teeth, we can help.  Make an appointment with our Calgary dentist at 403.283.4252 and our Calgary dentist would be pleased to assess the issues you may be experiencing with your wisdom tooth and explain all of the options available to you. 

For more information on wisdom teeth, see https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/symptoms-causes/syc-20373808

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