The wisdom teeth are a third set of molars at the back of the mouth and are the last set of teeth to emerge. They generally emerge between ages 17 and 25, though dentists begin monitoring them in the early teens to identify potential problems as the teeth grow in. Some patients experience pain and discomfort as these molars appear, while others do not. Just because a patient does not feel any pain with their wisdom teeth does not necessarily mean these teeth do not need to be removed.
Healthy Wisdom Teeth
There are instances where the wisdom teeth fully emerge through the gums in a vertical position and fit comfortably at the back of the jaw. They are not crooked, partially covered by the gums, or putting pressure on adjacent teeth. Patients who can thoroughly clean their third molars and have a proper bite may not need to have these teeth removed because they are not causing any problems. The oral and maxillofacial surgeon will continue to monitor the teeth in case the situation changes.
Why Have Wisdom Teeth Removed?
The third molars, more often than not, do not grow in perfectly straight. They may become trapped under the gums, grow in at an angle, crowd existing teeth, cause infections, or develop a cyst or tumor within the bone. These are just a few of the complications that can arise.
Dentists and oral surgeons generally recommend extracting wisdom teeth before these problems develop or escalate. This procedure is incredibly common among young adults for several reasons:
- The tooth root is still forming. When the wisdom teeth first emerge, the root is still growing and strengthening. This makes it easier to remove the tooth and for the bone to heal. Over time, the root grows deeper into the jaw and may become curved. The bone also hardens around it. This can make wisdom tooth extraction more difficult once patients reach age 30 or older.
- Recovery is faster. Young adults often bounce back more quickly from oral surgery than adults. There is a lower risk of complications from surgery, and recovery time is shorter because the wisdom teeth are not yet fully developed. However, the procedure can be performed at any age, especially if pain or infection develops around the wisdom teeth.
- Fewer Complications. The longer the third molars remain, even if they are not painful, the greater risk of damage to adjacent teeth or other tissues. Patients cannot see what is happening with wisdom teeth that are trapped below the gums. The wisdom teeth may be angled toward the second molars, causing damage or developing an infection or cyst. The roots of the wisdom teeth may also continue growing closer to the nerve in the lower jaw or the maxillary sinus in the upper jaw and potentially cause problems.
- Better Oral Health. It can be difficult to properly clean around the wisdom teeth because they are located in the very back of the mouth. Patients may have trouble navigating their toothbrushes to remove plaque, bacteria, and bits of food that can become trapped. This can increase the risk of developing cavities or infections. Removing wisdom teeth can enable patients to keep their teeth in better health more easily.
Be Proactive About Oral Health
Patients should have a thorough examination and cleaning of their teeth by a dentist twice a year to monitor their oral health and identify any problems early on. No pain does not necessarily mean everything is fine or problems will not develop later, which is why patients with wisdom teeth should discuss whether extraction is recommended. Schedule a consultation at Glacial Sands OMS in Chesterton, IN at (219) 964-4321 to learn more about wisdom tooth removal and whether it is the right choice.