Do Wisdom Teeth Always Have to Be Removed?

It seems so many people have to have their wisdom teeth, or third molars, removed. Why is this needed, and how will you know if you or your child needs this procedure?

Impaction and Related Problems

Many wisdom teeth end up impacted in the gum. This means the tooth is unable to reach the surface of the gums and “erupt” like a normal tooth. Instead, it sits fully or partially beneath the surface. Some people assume that an impacted tooth is okay, as long as it doesn’t hurt. Actually, an impacted wisdom tooth can do a lot of damage to your mouth.

First, if the impacted wisdom tooth is touching your second molar beneath the surface, a small pocket can form between the two teeth, creating an ideal spot for bacteria to grow. Since you can’t reach this pocket with brushing or flossing, the wisdom tooth and your second molar can end up with tooth decay. Then, you may have to have both molars removed instead of just the wisdom teeth – clearly not a better solution. In severe cases, the pocket between the teeth can be very deep, which can result in bone loss in the mouth in addition to the loss of both molars.

Another possible complication of an impacted tooth is infection. If the tooth has partially erupted, the gum tissue that’s covering it can collect bacteria, causing pain, swelling, and infection that can affect your mouth and even spread to cause serious complications.

In some cases, an impacted tooth can also lead to the formation of a cyst inside the gum. These can cause pain, and they may also lead to loss of bone and damage to nearby teeth if left untreated.

Disruption to Other Teeth

Having straight teeth is something all of us wish for. And if you’ve had braces or other orthodontic work done, the last thing you want is your wisdom teeth to start pushing your straight teeth out of their perfect alignment! Your dentist can see on an x-ray where your wisdom teeth are going to erupt. If there’s not enough space, you may end up with crooked teeth and bite problems when the wisdom teeth push on existing teeth in their path.

To Remove or Not to Remove?

The key to wisdom teeth care is simple: find a dentist who can give you an educated and honest opinion about your wisdom teeth. When the mouth has adequate room for the teeth to erupt and other issues are not present, the wisdom teeth can remain and happily become part of your smile. But if your dentist sees existing or future problems with your wisdom teeth, removal is usually recommended.

At our Houston office, we make sure our patients are comfortable throughout the wisdom tooth extraction procedure and during recovery. We use anesthesia and/or sedation and you’ll go home the same day with clear instructions and medication for discomfort. If you’d like to talk with Dr. Armstrong about your wisdom teeth or other dental health issues, contact our office today!

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Hidden Causes of Bad Breath

Bad breath is a common problem that can cause embarrassment in social situations. Fortunately, something like too much garlic or onions can often be cured with just a good brushing and perhaps a sugar-free mint.

But in many cases, bad breath is caused by more than just certain foods or lack of brushing or flossing. Sometimes, bad breath, or halitosis, can be an ongoing struggle that doesn’t improve with good dental hygiene. If you’ve noticed your breath is less than pleasing (or worse, someone told you about the problem), there are some possible causes – and happily- some solutions.

Skipping Meals and Drinks

If it’s been a while since you ate or drank, your breath might give you away. When you don’t eat meals or drink enough water, your saliva production decreases, and your mouth becomes a hot spot for bacteria that give off a sulfur-like odor. Avoid this by not skipping meals, eating healthy snacks between meals if you’re hungry, and sipping on plain water throughout the day.

Gum Problems

Gum disease is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth, which contains bacteria that can produce an unpleasant odor. As the problem gets worse, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis. When this happens, the gums can develop pockets where more bacteria gets trapped, leading further bad breath and eventually, tooth loss.

Many people have mild gum disease, or gingivitis, and don’t know it. See your dentist twice a year to get your gums and teeth checked for problems, and be sure to follow proper brushing and flossing habits.

Acid Reflux or Heartburn

If you have chronic, frequent heartburn, or you’ve been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your breath could be affected too. When you have heartburn or GERD, food and other stomach contents back up into your esophagus. This can cause a bitter or sour taste that can also result in bad breath. If you think you may have GERD, talk with your doctor. Over time, this problem can damage your esophagus without proper treatment.

Medications and Allergies

Certain medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, including some that treat depression, anxiety, incontinence, and more. This can cause bad breath from lack of saliva – similar to the effect of not eating and drinking. If you’re on a long-term medication, be sure you’re aware of possible side effects and see your dentist regularly to ensure your mouth is healthy.

If you have allergies or chronic post nasal drip, this can also lead to bad breath – and unfortunately, many allergy medications will also dry out your mouth! To help combat this, take your allergy medication as directed by your doctor, but make sure you stay well hydrated with water and healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.

See Your Dentist

In some cases, bad breath can signal an underlying health problem. See your dentist every six months to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy, and don’t be afraid to discuss any breath problems and possible solutions. If your bad breath persists, see your doctor as well.

Has it been a while since your last dental visit? At the office of Craig Armstrong, DDS, we want to help you get the healthiest mouth possible. Contact our friendly, professional staff today to make your appointment!

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