Wisdom teeth removal can be a major rite of passage for teens and young adults, with approximately 80% of the US population getting them extracted! But why do most people need to get these third molars taken out, anyway?
There are several serious oral health issues that can develop if impacted wisdom teeth are not removed - that is, wisdom teeth that are not growing in or positioned correctly. Check out the common complications caused by impacted wisdom teeth that are not extracted in time!
Damage to other teeth If an impacted wisdom tooth pushes against its neighboring tooth (the second molar), it may damage the other tooth or increase the risk of infection in that area. The pressure and pushing can also cause crowding or shifting of the other teeth, and may require orthodontic treatment to straighten other teeth if the bite and alignment are shifted.
Decay Partially impacted wisdom teeth appear to be at higher risk of tooth decay (cavities) than other teeth. This is likely because wisdom teeth are harder to clean, being so far back in the mouth, and food and bacteria get easily trapped between the gum and a partially erupted tooth. This build up of food and bacteria often lead to chronic bad breath as well as cavities on both the wisdom tooth and the second molar.
Gum disease Along with tooth decay, the difficulty of cleaning impacted, partially erupted wisdom teeth increases the risk of developing a painful, inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis. This can lead to pain and swelling in or around the tooth, jaw or cheeks, and will likely continue to recur if not treated.
Cysts A wisdom tooth develops in a sac within the jawbone. The sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the jawbone, teeth and nerves. Rarely, a tumor ( usually noncancerous or benign) develops. This complication may require removal of not just the tooth but also tissue and bone.
Impacted wisdom teeth can be not only painful, but can cause serious oral health complications. It’s important to remember that with impacted wisdom teeth (and with most dental issues), things will only get worse the longer you wait. The best time to get impacted wisdom teeth removed is before the roots are fully developed. Since teeth grow from the crown down to the root, surgery and recovery will both be much easier if the tooth is extracted before the roots are fully formed. However, a skilled oral surgeon can complete even difficult wisdom tooth extraction cases with minimal pain and good recovery time, provided of course that you follow their post operative care instructions!