It is highly likely that at some point, you’ve heard a friend or family talk about having their wisdom teeth removed. It’s a very common practice, but not everyone needs to have them taken out. Of course, a visit to your dentist Seattle is the best way to find out if it is recommended that yours be removed. Below you will find some general information about what wisdom teeth are and what can happen if you decide to keep them.
What Exactly are Wisdom Teeth?
Generally, we don’t get our last set of molars until around the ages of 17 to 21. In theory, we grow wiser as we get older; hence the name “wisdom teeth”.
Your wisdom teeth are the third set of molars found on both the upper and lower jaws. Located in the back of your mouth, you can expect to find two on the top and two on the bottom. These are the toughest of all the molars, used to grind food, which is why they are wide. It is because of their width that they can cause problems and more often than not, they need to be removed.
So Why Do We Get Wisdom Teeth if We Don’t Need Them?
It’s believed among many experts that our ancestors had larger jaws that could accommodate the molars as they were needed for chewing trough, raw meat. Another theory is that our ancestor’s teeth would often decay and fall out. Having the additional set of molars was helpful in allowing them to continue eating normally.
On a side note, there are some people who will never develop their wisdom teeth or develop less than 4 of them. There is no way to know if you will be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to deal with this situation or not.
Problems Caused by Wisdom Teeth
Removing wisdom teeth is a very common procedure in the United States. Although not everyone will experience problems with their wisdom teeth, for many they will end up causing pain and other complications. Dentists recommend most often to have them removed to avoid causing these issues. If you choose not to follow that recommendation, these are some of the most common
wisdom teeth problems to watch for:
Ruin your smile – Having extra teeth in your mouth, especially if they are not straight can cause crowding which in turn can cause pain and other problems. Any orthodontics you have had could be ruined by these teeth as well. And if they do happen to come in straight, getting to the back of the mouth to brush and floss may be difficult which could increase the risk of tooth decay.
Jaw damage – Often times cysts will form around crooked wisdom teeth which left untreated, can destroy bones, roots, and nerves. They can even turn into tumors which require surgery.
Sinus pain – Pain, pressure, headaches, and congestion can occur when your wisdom teeth in your upper jaw push against your sinuses.
Cavities and gum disease – the number one causes of unintentional adult tooth loss are cavities and gum disease. Bacteria grows in pockets between the teeth and gums and this can be very hard to clean.
Why Do My Wisdom Teeth Need to be Removed?
There are four main reasons why your dentist may recommend that you have your wisdom teeth removed:
- They are impacted (see below for more information)
- They come in at the wrong angle
- Your mouth isn’t big enough
- You can’t easily reach them in order to maintain optimal oral health
What Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
When wisdom teeth are blocked by other teeth, stuck in the jawbone or there just isn’t enough room in your mouth, they are considered impacted. This can cause not only severe pain and discomfort, but also infection and inflammation of the gums. Impactions can also cause potential damage to other teeth and the gumline.
There are different types of wisdom tooth impactions:
Mesioangular Impaction – This happens when tooth is angled forward, facing the front of the mouth which could push other teeth out of alignment.
Distoangular Impaction – This type of impaction is when the tooth is tilted towards the back of the mouth.
Horizontal Impaction – Teeth that are laying sideways at a 90° angle.
Vertical Impaction – The tooth is angled correctly but it has not erupted through the gum line appropriately.
When is the Best Time to Have Wisdom Teeth Removed?
As we age, our bones become more brittle, making the removal and recovery process more difficult. So, while it’s never too late to have them removed, it is likely to have less of an impact the younger you are. Your dentist will work with you to outline a treatment plan for the removal process. To save time, you may be able to have multiple wisdom teeth removed in one appointment.
Do You Know If Your Wisdom Teeth Are Causing Problems?
You dentist can tell you exactly what is going on with your wisdom teeth by taking x-rays that will show you everything you need to know; or if you even have them. From there they can let you know whether or not they recommend you have them removed.
If you or a family member are wondering if it’s time to remove your wisdom teeth, call Timothy J. Butson, DMD, MSD‘s office of dentistry to schedule an appointment. We offer both general and family dental care for the downtown Seattle area. Our team of professionals is dedicated to providing the most caring and comfortable visit for you and your family. You will receive a confirmation call before each appointment and when you arrive at our office, you will be seated in our comfortable and quiet reception area. We talk with you to gather information about your current state of health and provide you with a thorough examination. We’ll design a treatment plan to address all issues we find and answer any questions you may have. We look forward to helping you keep a beautiful, healthy smile!