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Despite their name, wisdom teeth don’t make anyone wiser. These late-stage molars often cause extreme discomfort when they erupt from the gums and crowd your existing teeth. Worse, there are even recorded cases of wisdom teeth that contribute to jaw alignment, sinus problems, long-term, damaging cavities, and cysts.
Still, some fortunate people don’t experience these common symptoms and discomforts of wisdom teeth. For these lucky people, the question is — is it worth undergoing wisdom teeth removal? And just because oral surgery has become standard practice, do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?
When Not to Remove Wisdom Teeth
This oral surgery has become practically a rite of passage for young adults. But contrary to popular belief — and what you’ve observed in many family and friends — wisdom teeth removal is not always necessary.
This third set of molars typically develop anywhere between the teenage years to young adulthood. By then, we will have lost all of our baby teeth, and the adult set has taken their place. For most people, this also means there isn’t room for any more teeth to grow, and that’s why the sudden eruption of wisdom teeth becomes a problem.
Still, there are instances wherein wisdom teeth don’t require removal, such as:
- The wisdom teeth are healthy
- They’re fully erupted or grown in completely
- Positioned correctly and in line with opposing teeth, without affecting your bite
- They can be reached by a toothbrush and when flossing.
When Wisdom Teeth Are a Problem
In most cases, wisdom teeth need to be removed because they affect the rest of the teeth. This happens because they often don’t have space to grow because of the existing teeth. But they must erupt, so instead can grow from various angles in the jaw — even horizontally.
Other common problems with growing wisdom teeth include:
- Staying hidden in the gums, eventually becoming trapped or impacted within the jaw, which results in infection or abscess that damages the roots of other teeth and erodes bone support
- Erupting partially through the gums, but is hard to see and clean, making it a hotbed of bacteria that causes gum disease and oral infection
- Erupting fully, but impacts nearby teeth by growing at an angle, which causes crowding and damage to otherwise healthy surrounding teeth.
Some dentists recommend wisdom teeth removal even if they don’t fully emerge to avoid damage later on. Other dentists go as far as recommending extraction at a young age before the teeth and jawbone develop fully. Younger patients recover faster, and there are much lower chances of impacted wisdom tooth growth and infections in adulthood.
When should wisdom teeth be removed?
For most patients, pain is a telltale sign that their wisdom teeth have erupted and may need extraction. But it’s not the only common symptom of a troublesome wisdom tooth that requires removal. Others include recurring infections in the soft tissue behind the last teeth, cysts, tumours, damage to neighbouring teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Wisdom teeth removal involves extracting the impacted teeth and restoring nearby damaged teeth that may have been affected. Combined with an x-ray to confirm their position and growth, your dentist will recommend wisdom teeth removal based on the shape of your mouth and the health of the other teeth. Wisdom teeth removal is especially ideal in young adulthood when these molars are still healthy, as jawbones become harder with age and teeth tougher to remove.
Why You Need Wisdom Tooth Removal
1. Damage to nearby teeth
Because your permanent teeth are already positioned, this extra set of molars’ eruption can force them to shift their position. This causes pain, bite problems, and overcrowding, making it difficult to brush and floss effectively and eventually lead to cavities or tooth decay. If treatment is delayed, you may also need to undergo additional procedures to straighten impacted neighbouring teeth.
2. Damage to the jaw
First comes stiffness or pain, then before you know it, damage to the jawbones, impacting the mouth’s function and motion. Like all teeth, wisdom teeth erupt from the jaws and through the gums, but this isn’t always the case, especially when there’s no space left around the other teeth.
Some wisdom teeth grow impacted within the jaw, shifting the other teeth and even the jawline. This can limit the opening of the mouth and cause pain when doing so. Cysts can also form along the newly erupted molars, which can hollow out the jaw bones and damage the nerves of neighbouring, healthy teeth when left untreated.
3. Sinus problems
We know that the mouth and nose are intricately connected, but did you know that impacted wisdom teeth can affect the sinuses? Wisdom teeth removal is recommended when these molars’ growth causes sinus pain, pressure, and congestion. Oral health is overall health — and that’s it’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to any symptom or ailment.
4. Sensitivity and pain
A lot of patients only realize that their wisdom teeth are impacted when they experience pain. But like any dental problem, it starts small and even virtually undetectable. Don’t ignore any toothache, or even sensitivity and slight throbbing sensations.
Pay attention to where it occurs — if it happens upon contact to the back of the mouth while you’re eating or brushing, chances are your wisdom teeth have erupted. It won’t be long before it shows that they’re growing at an angle to the other teeth, impacting the jaws, or crowding neighbouring teeth.
5. Inflamed gums
Oral health isn’t limited to teeth — gums play a huge role too and suffer through impacted wisdom teeth. When wisdom teeth erupt at an angle to the other teeth, or horizontally, they can cause the gums to swell and make it hard to clean. These reddish areas along the gum line often feel sore to the touch, preventing proper brushing and flossing, eventually leading to cavities and tooth decay.