Although they’re called “wisdom teeth,” it’s not always wise to keep them in. These third molars come in at the furthest four corners of your mouth. Remnants of a time when our ancestors needed a third set of molars to make up for the teeth they lost throughout their lives, wisdom teeth don’t serve much of a purpose nowadays. Unfortunately, in many cases, they actually cause oral health problems. As WebMD explains: “sometimes [wisdom teeth] can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often, they are misaligned and require removal.” We typically suggest that patients begin to pay more attention to their wisdom teeth between ages 17 and 25, since this is the time when these molars usually come in, and they are easier to treat before they become an issue, rather than after.
At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Craig Armstrong and our team regularly assist patients with wisdom teeth extraction. We understand that having these molars taken out can be a big decision for patients. How can you tell if it’s the right decision for you? When should you do it? In the following blog, we explain the top three signs it’s time to get your wisdom teeth out.
One of the primary problems with wisdom teeth is that these final molars often don’t grow in like they should. Ideally, the teeth would come in straight, smoothly erupting through the gums to take their place in the back of the mouth.
However, many wisdom teeth are misaligned—“they may position themselves horizontally, be angled toward or away from the second molars, or be angled inward or outward.” This poses distinct difficulties when it comes to caring for your teeth (how do you properly brush and floss a tooth that’s angled directly in to the molar next to it?) and “can crowd or damage adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or nerves.”
Some wisdom teeth develop improperly before they even erupt into the mouth. As WebMD points out, “wisdom teeth also can be impacted,” which means they are “enclosed within the soft tissue an/or the jawbone or only partially break through or erupt through the gum.” As you can imagine, these trapped teeth can lead to all sorts of dental troubles. Impacted wisdom teeth can put undue pressure on surrounding teeth, gums, and jaws. Partially erupted wisdom teeth are also more vulnerable to decay and infection.
Overall, improper eruption can be uncomfortable and unhealthy. Dr. Armstrong can help you spot this condition before it begins to affect your oral health with our advanced digital X-rays and other diagnostic measures. If we can see that your wisdom teeth are coming in askew or lack the space to erupt as they should, we can preventively extract these molars, saving you needless discomfort and hassle.
Even if they erupt properly, wisdom teeth are much more difficult to maintain. It’s a challenge to adequately brush, floss, and rinse teeth located so far back in the mouth. Particulate matter can easily get stuck in the gums and plaque can cover the enamel. If your wisdom teeth develop decay or the surrounding gums become affected with periodontal disease, Dr. Armstrong may recommend extraction. This option is often simpler, easier, and healthier than attempting to treat the teeth. You should come see us at our Houston dental practice as soon as possible if you suffer from toothache in your third molars. Dr. Armstrong will also examine your wisdom teeth for signs of decay or infection at your checkups every six months.
It may seem counterintuitive, but one indicator you might need to have your wisdom teeth extracted is discomfort in your sinuses. According to WebMD, “problems with wisdom teeth can lead to sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.” If you’ve been suffering from persistent sinus problems that aren’t resolving, your third molars could be the culprit. In this case, removing them could help alleviate these issues so you can breathe more easily. Dr. Armstrong can evaluate your wisdom teeth and help you decide if it’s time to extract them.
Dr. Armstrong and our Houston dental team are here to help you! Contact us today to learn more about wisdom tooth extraction, find out if this procedure may be the right choice for you, and schedule a consultation.