Have you been having pain and discomfort at the back of your jaw? Has your dentist just recommended wisdom teeth removal? It may surprise you to know that this is a fairly common procedure. At least 90% of people need to get all four wisdom teeth extracted, two in the upper jaw and the other two in the lower jaw. You can safely get these molars extracted since they don’t serve any practical purpose, and aren’t used for chewing or speaking.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Grow at All?
Given their lack of purpose, pain, infection, and the botheration of wisdom teeth removal – having them doesn’t seem worth it. Up until a few centuries ago, our ancestors had a bigger jawline or dental arch because of which they could easily accommodate that extra set of molars in their mouths. At the time, wisdom teeth were useful in chewing food more efficiently. Evolution has resulted in smaller jaws which is why you can make do with two sets of molars. In fact, science now recognizes that wisdom teeth are similar to an appendix. You have the vestigial organ, but don’t really need it.
Does Everyone Grow Wisdom Teeth?
Around 35% of people never grow wisdom teeth in their entire lifetimes. Various factors like genetics and race can be responsible. If you do have them, you’re likely to see the third set of molars erupting between the ages of 17 to 25. That’s when the dental arch becomes big enough for the teeth to develop. Depending on the skeletal structure of your face, you may grow the extra set of molars only in the lower jaw. While 20 baby teeth are present in the gums when you’re born, wisdom teeth develop only in adulthood. Many people choose to go in for the extraction procedure just to avoid any problems in the future.
Do Wisdom Teeth HAVE to be Removed?
Well, not always! Many people go through life without any trouble at all. But, you will need to get the procedure if the extra teeth are causing trouble. Here are some of the reasons why you may need wisdom teeth removal.
1. Wisdom Teeth are Improperly Positioned
If the third set of molars erupt toward the inner cheek, they can cause pain and minor injuries by grazing the tissues. This improper position is typically the result of insufficient space and the new teeth start to crowd their neighbors. Alternatively, the new tooth could be angled toward the back of the mouth or to the second molar. Or, it could grow at a right angle from the next tooth in the row. As a result, the dentist might recommend that you have the fresh eruptions removed.
2. Impacted Wisdom Teeth
In case the entire wisdom tooth remains inside the gum, you have a condition called an impacted tooth which can lead to severe pain. Impacted teeth can be vertical or horizontal growing in a “lying down position” below the gum line. If left in place, the tooth can cause cysts and tumors inside the jaw bone. In extreme cases, the tooth can affect the roots of the second molars causing them to decay. To prevent long-term problems in the entire oral cavity, your dental surgeon may suggest that you opt for extraction. Among the various signs of an impacted wisdom tooth, you’ll see swelling in the jaw, and red, swollen, and bleeding gums. You may also sense an unpleasant taste in the mouth and bad breath.
3. Semi-Impacted Wisdom Teeth
At times, the wisdom teeth do not erupt completely or are semi-impacted. A section of the crown may remain covered by gums or operculum as it is also called. As a result, you may develop pericoronitis, a kind of infection caused when food particles remain trapped in the space between the gum tissue and tooth. Characterized by fever, inflammation, and pain, the condition can lead to swelling in the lymph nodes and difficulty in chewing and opening the mouth. Wisdom teeth removal can help you with the discomfort.
4. Differently-Shaped Wisdom Teeth
Some people have wisdom teeth that are shaped differently from their neighbors. For instance, they may have conical roots that are more painful or grow with a single jagged root. You also have the possibility of a peg-shaped crown that causes discomfort in the oral cavity.
5. Infections Resulting from Wisdom Teeth
Since wisdom teeth grow at the back of your mouth and are often awkwardly positioned, cleaning them can become difficult. It is not uncommon for people to develop cavities, all kinds of gum infections, and inflammation of the dental pulp. In addition to pericoronitis, some patients may also develop periodontitis that wears away the tissues and bone supporting the tooth so that it comes loose. After taking x-rays and assessing the extent of the damage, your dentist might opt for wisdom teeth removal.
Can You Avoid Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Unless you have serious complications because of which you absolutely need an extraction, your dentist may choose to use other methods to help you. For instance, some patients risk nerve damage because of the removal procedure. Accordingly, the dentist may advise that you get root canal treatment to remove the infected pulp. Next, she’ll insert the appropriate fillings so you can have a normal life. If needed, you may receive a course of antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria. As long as the positioning of the tooth does not potentially cause problems for the remaining dental structure, you can leave it alone. In case the crown is semi-impacted and properly set in the jaw, the oral surgeon may just remove the covering flap of tissue. Do keep in mind that most extractions are done using sedation dentistry to minimize the discomfort.
Wisdom teeth extraction is typically a simple process. You can rely on the expertise of the expert dentist, Dr. Jennifer Silver at Macleod Dental Trail to advise you on whether it is necessary. She will also direct you on the aftercare and how to ensure that the healing takes place normally.
If you have additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment, go ahead and call us at this number: (403) 253-1248. You can also click on Contact Us button and add your contact details. We’ll get in touch with you with responses.
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Dr. Jennifer Silver is one of the top dental surgeons practicing in Calgary, Alberta using an innovative multi-disciplinary approach to helping her patients. She believes in offering expert advice and make recommendations to patients just as she would to a family member. Dr. Silver collaborates with a large network of specialists and taps into their expertise to provide holistic care.
Dr. Jennifer Silver has earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her academic qualifications include deans honours list, an oral surgery award and best research project. Before attaining this degree, she graduated with honors from Dalhousie University’s Dental Hygiene Program and worked in the sphere of dentistry for 10 years. Dr. Silver is currently helping patients with dental issues such as TMJ pain and sleep apnea in addition to dentistry. She is keenly interested in constantly upgrading her skills and hopes to gain additional training in oral surgery in the future.