Should Your Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
People often ask us whether wisdom teeth should be taken out, even if they’re not causing any problems. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to extract wisdom teeth, so the answer is often not a simple yes or no.
Whether they’ve grown in fully, if they’re straight and positioned properly, if they can be brushed and cleaned along with other teeth and if they bite properly with opposing teeth are all considerations.
To help put these factors into perspective, it’s helpful to understand more about your wisdom teeth.
So What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the set of third molars that grow between the ages of 17 to 25. They form at the end of the jaw behind all the other teeth.
The name comes from the association with the age when these teeth grow in, as people are older and wiser before the new wisdom teeth erupt from the gums. Having said that, some people never get wisdom teeth, and others may only grow one, two or three instead of all four.
Those in their teens and early 20s who do not yet have wisdom teeth should be examined by a dentist to see whether wisdom teeth have formed, but haven’t yet pushed through the gums.
Should I have my Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Your dentist will take a medical and dental history to identify symptoms that may be associated with the growth of the third molar set. The dentist will also look at the teeth’s position, root systems and proximity to other structures of the mouth, sinuses and nerves. Based on this evaluation, the dentist will make recommendations about how to proceed.
There are several reasons why your dentist may also recommend keeping wisdom teeth. Primarily, they help you chew. Also, removing a tooth involves surgery, so if the tooth is healthy and not causing any problems, it may be better to avoid surgery and any potential complications that can be associated with it. However, wisdom teeth do often cause problems that mean the teeth may be better off extracted.
Conditions That Require Extraction
- If teeth have formed but not erupted, they may cause problems in the jaw or soft tissue of the gums. Wisdom teeth could become impacted, which happens when a tooth has formed but can’t push through the gum into the mouth. Some impacted wisdom teeth become embedded in the jaw, which can cause problems later such as cysts that can damage nearby teeth or the bone of the jaw.
- If the tooth erupts at an angle, cleaning and flossing may become difficult, and bacteria can get trapped, creating an environment for cavities to develop in the wisdom tooth and the adjacent tooth. This can also contribute to gum disease or infection.
- If the tooth breaches the gum but doesn’t come in all the way, bacteria can enter the breach and cause infection under gums or in the jaw. This can present as stiffness or soreness around the tooth and should be reported to your dentist.
- If you have a small jaw, wisdom teeth may cause crowding or movement of other teeth.
- If you require orthodontic work, your dentist may recommend removing wisdom teeth before treatment.
- If wisdom teeth are causing congestion or sinus pain due to suboptimal growth.
What Are The Risks of Extraction?
Most extractions are done under local anaesthesia, however, some cases may require treatment under general anaesthesia. Depending on the complexity of the procedure, people may experience pain, numbness in the tongue or face, swelling, or bleeding. Pain, numbness and swelling usually subsides after a few days, and a course of antibiotics will also be undertaken to ensure there is no infection.
Other complications associated with tooth extraction are dry socket, a condition when the residual blood clot is dislodged from the extraction site. Normally, a blood clot forms to seal the hole, or socket, left by the tooth, which protects the bone and nerves under the tooth. If the clot is dislodged, food particles and bacteria can enter the socket, leading to increased risk of infection.
Depending on the complexity of the growth of the wisdom tooth and the proximity of surrounding mouth structures, there may be a risk of nerve damage associated with tooth growth or extraction.
In summary, regular dental check-ups are important for both oral and general health. If your dentist does not recommend removing your wisdom teeth, you can enjoy the extra chewing ability, but if you notice any irregularities be sure to tell your dentist about it and continue having regular check-ups to monitor the health of your teeth and mouth.