At your last visit, your dentist took a few X-rays of your mouth and recommended that you have your wisdom teeth removed. You’re a little hesitant to remove the teeth, since you don’t want to undergo oral surgery. Can you risk skipping it?
The answer really depends on the state of your wisdom teeth. Since the human mouth has evolved with time, and is usually considerably smaller than the mouths of earlier people, many don’t have the room needed for wisdom teeth, or the last set of molars, to come in cleanly. Wisdom teeth that don’t have the needed space to grow can become impacted, or stuck in the gums. It’s when the teeth become impacted that a number of unpleasant symptoms and complications can occur.
Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If you don’t remove your wisdom teeth, and they are impacted, you might not even realize it, unless your dentist examines your mouth and lets you know. While some people are without symptoms, others do experience a few signs that the teeth are impacted. Tenderness in the gums at the back of the mouth, as well as redness and swelling, are just a few common signs that the teeth are impacted. You might also have pain and a bad taste in your mouth. Some people experience a headache or notice that their jaw swells.
Greater Risk for Decay
Left alone, impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to decay or to develop cavities. If the teeth are stuck in the gums, it’s more difficult to reach them with your toothbrush and toothpaste and give them a good cleaning. Bacteria is also more likely to be trapped in the area around the wisdom teeth, especially if there’s a flap or pocket in the gums. It’s also more difficult for the dentist to fill in the cavities in the wisdom teeth, since they haven’t fully erupted.
Increased Risk for Gum Disease
Keeping your wisdom teeth can also increase your risk for gum disease. A 2005 study examining more than 250 young adult patients who had decided to keep their wisdom teeth found that 60 percent of those patients had signs of gum disease around the back teeth at the beginning of the study. As the study went on, a quarter of participants saw their gum disease become worse over the course of two years.
Even if the teeth aren’t impacted, their location at the back of the mouth makes them difficult to reach when cleaning. Difficulty cleaning the teeth and the gums around them means that bacteria is more likely to collect in the area, leading not only to decay but also to gum disease.
Damage to Nearby Teeth
If you had to wear braces as a younger teenager, following your dentist’s advice and removing your wisdom teeth makes sense. As the teeth come in, if there’s not enough room for them, they can push on the existing teeth in your mouth, undoing the work of wearing braces or a retainer for all those years.
Along with messing up the alignment of your teeth, the third molars can also physically damage other teeth in your mouth. The wisdom tooth can put extra pressure on the second molars, leading to wear on the enamel, for example.
A wisdom tooth that is left alone can end up doing severe damage to your jaw. When forming and growing in the jawbone, the tooth is inside of a sac. If the tooth is impacted, the sac can fill up with fluid and eventually turn into a cyst.
Although a cyst is usually asymptomatic at first, if not taken care of, it can become infected or it can become large enough that it damages the nearby teeth or weakens the jaw. Cysts can develop into non-cancerous tumors, as well. Depending on how bad the cyst becomes, removing it might require removing part of the jaw, too.
Having oral surgery is, admittedly, not a fun experience. But if your dentist has recommended having your wisdom teeth removed, it’s best to act sooner rather than later.
In Miami, Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas perform wisdom teeth removal, as well as other oral surgery procedures, and offer gum disease treatment and implants. To schedule an appointment with the periodontists and learn more about your options for removal, call (305) 447-1447 today.