Do you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, and when is the ideal time to do so? Wisdom teeth are your third set of molars, positioned at the very back of your mouth. They usually come in after all your other teeth have erupted, and they can be very troublesome.
Dentists usually check to see if wisdom teeth need to be removed when a patient is between 16 and 19 years of age. X-rays allow your dentist to see how your wisdom teeth are erupting and predict if they will need to be removed. In some cases, you may be able to keep them – they should be fully erupted from the gums, healthy, and positioned so that they don’t damage other teeth. It can be very difficult to avoid cavities in these teeth because of where they are in your mouth, so you will also want to consider special cleaning habits to make sure they stay healthy.
Unfortunately, many wisdom teeth don’t have room to grow or erupt properly and can cause problems. Some common problems include:
Crowding: Wisdom teeth that erupt without enough room to come in properly can cause your teeth to crowd or overlap, and may even cause damage to nearby teeth.
Poor Position: Wisdom teeth may come in at odd angles, even horizontally, causing damage to other teeth or your jaw.
Partial Eruption: Sometimes the wisdom teeth only emerge partially through the gums. This makes the area and the tooth very hard to clean, creating a pocket or passage that can be a magnet for bacteria, contributing to gum disease and oral infections.
Hidden Teeth: If the teeth remain hidden under the gums, they can become trapped or “impacted” in your jaw, which can result in infection or may cause a cyst that could damage other teeth roots, or bone in the jaw.
In many cases, dentists will recommend the removal of the wisdom teeth when patients are in their teens or early twenties. As you get older, the bones and teeth get harder, making it harder for patients to recover after surgery. Pulling wisdom teeth when the patient is young, while the roots and bone associated with wisdom teeth are still forming, can prevent problems from removal and prevent issues that may arise from hidden teeth that could become impacted.
If you have not had your wisdom teeth removed, you will want to watch out for certain symptoms to avoid major problems in your mouth. If you are experiencing:
• Pain in your jaw
• Damage or repositioning of nearby teeth
• Repetitive infection in the gums behind your lower last tooth
• Progressive gum disease
• Cysts or tumors
• Excessive tooth decay
While it is generally safe and easy to remove wisdom teeth in young adults, the decision to remove wisdom teeth is always personal and unique. You will want to talk with your dentist or oral surgeon about the position and health of your wisdom teeth to make the best decision for you individually.
If you have questions or are experiencing any pain associated with your wisdom teeth, give us a call and we’ll help you understand your options and make the decision that is best for you. We’re excited to help you get “wise” about your wisdom teeth!