Wisdom teeth or third molars are an issue for most people at some point in their lives. Usually erupting between the ages of 17 and 25, most adults have four wisdom teeth, one in each of the four quadrants. However, it’s possible to have fewer or more. Wisdom teeth commonly affect other teeth as they develop due to becoming impacted. Most people don’t have adequate room for these teeth to erupt fully in the mouth. Therefore, they are often extracted when or even before they present a problem.
Impaction of these teeth means that they are enclosed within the soft tissue and/or the bone. Occasionally, they only partially break through or erupt through the gum which allows an opening and optimal habitat for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. This situation can result in pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, and systemic illness. Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay, gum disease, and periodontal disease because their location and awkward positioning makes brushing and flossing nearly impossible.
So, how do you know if the pain you’re experiencing is related to wisdom teeth? If the discomfort is coming from any far corner of your mouth, the source may be a third molar. A visit to your dentist will be necessary. A panoramic x-ray will determine if you have wisdom teeth and their position. It’s very common to be referred to an oral surgeon for an evaluation and extraction, if necessary.
Failing to have wisdom teeth removed when it has been recommended can cause ongoing complications such as:
Pain- The most prevalent complaint regarding wisdom teeth is pain which is frequently due to the presence of infection. The pain can be present in your jaw, throat, ear, face, or the site of the tooth.
Systemic Infection- Bacteria present at the site of the wisdom teeth can enter the bloodstream and cause a systemic infection. This can be very dangerous for patients with a weakened immune system.
Proper Cleaning- It’s difficult to clean partially erupted wisdom teeth properly because of their position in the mouth, and as a result, food and plaque buildup can cause a gum infection around the tooth. This type of infection is usually reoccurring until the source of the infection is removed. Infected wisdom teeth can also promote decay of surrounding teeth.
Shifting Teeth- Impacted wisdom teeth can create pressure by trying unsuccessfully to erupt. This type of pressure can cause teeth to shift. That’s why it’s recommended to have them extracted after orthodontics.
Cysts- Although not too common, cysts in the bone can occur around the impacted wisdom tooth. This type of cyst can cause the destruction of bone.
If it has been recommended that you have your third molars taken out, give it some serious consideration. The younger you are, the easier it is overall to recover from the surgery, and the recurring complications aren’t likely to resolve without treatment.