Human teeth development happens in multiple stages across many years. Most kids lose their baby teeth by age 6. These primary teeth are replaced by a more permanent set, starting with the first molars and central incisors.
By the time you turn 13, you should have most of your permanent teeth fully developed, except for one set – the wisdom teeth. Also called third molars, these are the widest and toughest teeth that emerge at the very back of the mouth, where we do all the chewing.
Wisdom teeth only start appearing between the ages of 17 to 21. They come in a set of four – two on the upper jaws and two on the lower jaws. However, in most individuals, there is not enough space in the mouth to accommodate these four teeth, leading to wisdom teeth problems.
Common Problems Related to Wisdom Teeth
Due to the lack of space, wisdom teeth can often erupt and grow at various angles. Sometimes, they even grow completely horizontally and get trapped inside your gums. This is called an impacted tooth and requires surgical extraction.
Wisdom tooth extraction is incredibly common in the United States – approximately 10 million of these are removed surgically each year by dentists from an estimated 5 million patients. Here are the main ways in which erratic growth of wisdom teeth can lead to dental problems:
- Remain hidden inside the gums: as noted earlier, this condition is called the “impacted wisdom tooth.” The trapped tooth can sometimes lead to cysts or infections that damage nearby teeth, gums, and the jawbone itself.
- Emerge partially: when this happens, it can create a passageway where food gets stuck and attracts bacteria. Since that area of the mouth is hard to reach and clean, there is no easy way to prevent this, leading to frequent infections and gum disease.
- Crowd and damage other teeth: without enough space to grow, the pushing of wisdom teeth can exert pressure on other nearby molars, leading to crowding or worse, damaged teeth.
Since wisdom teeth often cause more problems than benefits, experienced dentists believe that early removal is a better choice than waiting for things to go wrong. As you grow older, the jawbone hardens, making tooth extraction more difficult. But this is not the case in young adults.
Recovery is also faster when you don’t have to contend with infections, gum disease, or other structural damage in the area. Due to these reasons, some young adults opt to get their wisdom teeth pulled in advance.
When Does Wisdom Teeth Removal Become Essential?
In some individuals, wisdom teeth erupt without any issues, and by the age of 23, they have a full set of 32 permanent teeth. If there are no painful symptoms, there is usually no need for wisdom teeth removal in adults.
The American Dental Association recommends wisdom tooth removal only in patients who experience one or more of the following symptoms in the back of their mouths:
- The pain of any intensity in the area
- Frequent infections of the soft tissue behind the lower last tooth
- Cysts – fluid-filled sacs in the area
- Any damage to nearby molars
- Presence of chronic gum disease
- Severe tooth decay in the area
Most patients consult a dentist when they experience pain in the general region of the wisdom tooth. However, many of the conditions listed above may not express pain, at least in the early stages. This is why it is important to regularly get your teeth checked by an experienced dentist.
Initial Consult for Wisdom teeth removal
When you consult us at Sunshine Smiles Dentistry for any issues related to your wisdom tooth, this is how things will proceed:
- Your dentist will perform a thorough inspection of your oral cavity
- X-rays will be taken to find out the exact position and angle of the wisdom tooth inside your gums
- The dentist will then determine the best way to remove the offending wisdom tooth in close consultation with you. Sometimes you might be referred to a specialist for wisdom teeth removal.
Age is also an important factor in wisdom tooth removal. Studies indicate that the removal of third molars in older individuals comes with an increased risk of surgical morbidities due to the age factor. This is yet another reason why dentists recommend the early removal of wisdom teeth.
Common Risks and Complications Associated with Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth evolved in early human ancestors because their diet had tough uncooked meats and plants that needed intense chewing. An additional set of molars were an asset in this era. But eventually, modern humans shifted to agriculture and started eating softer, cooked diets.
As a result, the need for heavy chewing was reduced drastically, particularly among children. Soft food does not promote jaw growth – and we end up with less jaw space by the age of 17 -23 compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
According to experts in human evolution, this is possibly the reason why wisdom teeth, a natural part of our oral cavity, end up becoming a liability. Wisdom teeth problems can lead to many different complications:
Damage to Other Teeth
Wisdom teeth growth can push nearby teeth out of their natural position, causing pain and bite problems. Overcrowding makes efficient cleaning and flossing impossible, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay. If left untreated, this can lead to further complications that require additional dental treatments and surgical procedures.
Damage to the Jaw
Healthy wisdom teeth emerge from the jaws and erupt through your gums. But when there is no space, some impacted wisdom teeth end up growing inside the jawbone. This can lead to pressure on other teeth roots in the jaw, and increase the risk of hollow jaw bones, cysts, and nerve damage across your dental line.
The mouth and nose are intricately connected in the human head. An impacted wisdom tooth at the upper jawline can increase the risk of sinus pain. The constant pressure exerted by the growth of these third molars can be felt in your sinuses, leading to congestion and other associated health issues.
When a wisdom tooth emerges at an unnatural angle, this growth exerts pressure on your gums. The gum tissue will swell and become sore. Cleaning and flossing become more challenging as a result, which can always lead to further complications like gum disease and infections.
Benefits of Early Wisdom Teeth Removal
People only realize the problems associated with their wisdom teeth when things go wrong and they end up with a severely impacted tooth, intense pain, swollen gums, and infections. But it doesn’t necessarily have to happen this way. The early removal of wisdom teeth comes with a number of potential benefits:
Eliminate the Risk of Impactions
Wisdom tooth impactions cause a wide array of structural issues to your teeth, jaws, and gumline. The damage is often permanent or long-lasting. If you remove these teeth early, you can avoid all that pain, discomfort, and damage to your otherwise healthy teeth and gums.
Reduce the Risk of Cavities
The teeth located at the very back of your jawline are always harder to clean and at higher risk of cavities and decay. Wisdom teeth can exacerbate this issue in other ways – the swelling and crowding create other hard-to-reach pockets where bacteria can grow and wreak havoc on your teeth. Remove the wisdom tooth early and you can significantly reduce the risk of cavities in this area.
Protect Your Gums, Teeth, and Sinuses
As already explained, an impacted wisdom tooth can cause complications both inside your mouth, jaws, and nearby sinuses. These side effects can range from minor irritants to severe damage with long-term consequences. With the early removal of wisdom teeth, you can pre-empt these complications and improve your overall oral health.
Easier Extraction and Faster Recovery
The jawbone and dental root system in our mouths get harder with each passing year. This is why wisdom tooth extraction in older adults is harder, more painful, and fraught with complications. With extraction at a younger age, you can significantly reduce the pain, inflammation, and other side effects like stiffness in the jaw. There is less risk of severe bleeding or damage to other teeth in your mouth with early extractions.
Opinion of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS)
In 2014, The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) published a White Paper on the management of wisdom teeth (third molars). The paper, which was endorsed by the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, had the following key statement on the management of third molars:
“Predicated on the best evidence-based data, third molar teeth that are associated with disease, or are at high risk of developing disease, should be surgically managed. In the absence of disease or significant risk of disease, active clinical and radiographic surveillance is indicated.”
In short, while all wisdom teeth do not require surgical management, given the abundance of evidence on long-term complications, close evaluation by a dental expert is recommended for everyone.
Consult Sunshine Smiles Dentistry for Wisdom Teeth Removal
Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries performed in the United States. Sunshine Smiles Dentistry has been consistently recognized as one of the top dental offices in Roswell, GA for several years. With a high rank in patient satisfaction, thanks to our expert personalized care for all wisdom teeth related concerns, we are the number one choice of patients in Roswell. Call us at +1 (770) 998-8116, or visit our online page to book an appointment today.