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!