Warning Signs That You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Extracted
Many patients have their wisdom teeth extracted in their teens as a preventive measure. But there are still plenty of adults who have their third molars intact. Sometimes, these teeth can remain in place without causing significant problems for many years or decades. In other cases, they become symptomatic and need to be taken out. What are some signs that it’s definitely time to get your wisdom teeth extracted?
Often, a wisdom tooth will only erupt partially through the gum. This leaves a flap of gum tissue partly covering the tooth. Here, bacteria and bits of food can accumulate, leading to infection and inflammation. This condition is called pericoronitis. The gums around the wisdom tooth may be painful and sensitive. They may also smell foul and ooze pus if the bacterial infection is severe. Pericoronitis tends to be a recurring problem. Prolonged infection of the gums can promote advanced periodontitis which damages not just the wisdom tooth but also the adjacent molars by eroding the jaw bone. Having the wisdom teeth extracted is the most effective and permanent treatment for pericoronitis. So, if you don’t want to experience this gum inflammation around your third molars again, you may choose to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Wisdom teeth are prone to cavities since flossing and brushing the third molars is often difficult. If you are experiencing pain from cavities in your wisdom teeth, or if your dentist identifies decay in your dental x-rays, extraction may be preferable to restoration with a filling or a root canal. If the tooth isn’t functional (there is no opposing tooth for it to bite against), it doesn’t make much sense to have repeated dental procedures to fix it over the years. Leaving the tooth in place puts your second molar at risk for cavities as well due to food and plaque buildup between the third and second molars.
Although they are rare, cysts and tumors tend to occur around wisdom teeth more often than around other teeth. The reasons for this are not fully understood but may have to do with tissue changes from chronic inflammation. This type of warning sign doesn’t cause a specific set of symptoms. Instead, it’s identified during a regular exam with dental x-rays. If your dentist finds a growth near your third molar, surgery is recommended to remove both the cyst and the tooth. Early detection is important since a larger cyst or benign tumor can destroy nerves, gum, bone, and other tissues around the tooth. In very rare cases, a growth can become cancerous.
Sore or Sensitive Teeth or Jaw
Depending on the location and position of impacted wisdom teeth, (those that are trapped in the jaw bone under the gums) you may experience recurring or ongoing pain. This could be pain or sensitivity in the wisdom tooth, in the adjacent molar it is pressing against, or in the jaw. Having your wisdom teeth extracted usually relieves this pain.
Damage to Second Molars
The molars directly next to your wisdom teeth may be at risk for damage from impacted third molars. This complication is visible in dental x-rays. The wisdom tooth may be located at an angle that causes it to press against and erode the second molar. For example, some patients have a wisdom tooth that is located horizontally in the jaw and grows into contact with the root of the adjacent tooth.
This is a warning sign that can occur gradually over the years as your wisdom teeth slowly emerge. Most people don’t have a large enough jaw to fully accommodate these third molars. As the wisdom teeth erupt, they can push the front teeth together, causing them to overlap. This isn’t just unsightly. Overcrowded teeth are more prone to both cavities and gum disease. Removal of wisdom teeth can make orthodontic treatment with braces faster and more effective.