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When It's No Longer Wise to Hold Onto Your Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, consist of four teeth that grow at the back of your mouth, one on each side of your upper jaw and one on each side of your lower jaw. They typically erupt between ages 17-21. However, most people have 28 teeth at this point, leaving no space for four more. Since wisdom teeth often have no room to grow like normal teeth, they can cause several oral health problems as they try to fit where there’s no space.

If they need to be removed, earlier is almost always better. This is because as you age, the bones in your mouth get harder, and tooth roots become fully formed, which can make removal more difficult. In addition, healing typically occurs more easily when you’re younger.

You can monitor the development of your wisdom teeth and the need for removal with regular dental checkups. Wisdom teeth specialist Trent W. Smallwood, DDS, of the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts in Tempe, Arizona, performs comprehensive examinations and cleanings. 

Using visual examination and X-rays, Dr. Smallwood can identify the presence of wisdom teeth before they start pushing out of your gums. As Dr. Smallwood monitors your teeth and gums, he can see if any wisdom teeth would be a source of current or future oral problems.

Reasons to remove wisdom teeth

Dr. Smallwood may recommend removing your wisdom teeth if you have any of the following oral complications:

Impacted wisdom teeth

If a wisdom tooth is impacted, that means it doesn't have enough room to break through the gum tissue. Impacted wisdom teeth can grow at odd angles, including horizontally. Many people don’t have symptoms with impacted wisdom teeth and often only find out about them with a dental X-ray.

Sometimes, an impacted wisdom tooth can partially break through the gum tissue. In these cases, a flap of gum tissue can grow over the tooth. The flap can trap food, plaque, and bacteria. As these materials collect, they can cause an infection called pericoronitis, a condition associated with painful eating, swollen gums, bad breath, and jaw and neck pain.

Crowded teeth

As wisdom teeth emerge, they can force the existing adult teeth to shift and move out of place. This can cause pain, an irregular bite, and difficulty eating and talking. As they force their way into spaces without adequate room, wisdom teeth can change the alignment of your teeth and damage existing teeth.

Sinus problems

You may develop sinus problems when the wisdom teeth in your upper jaw erupt and try to push through your gums. This is because, as your teeth grow roots, the roots can rub up against your sinuses. The pressure can cause sinus pain, headaches, and congestion.

Cyst formation

Your wisdom teeth develop in a sac within your jawbone. When a wisdom tooth partially emerges, the sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst. This cyst can cause pain and damage your jawbone, teeth, and nerves if it remains. 

Tooth decay 

When wisdom teeth emerge at irregular angles, they’re typically harder to keep clean. Since they’re located deep in your mouth, you may have a hard time brushing and flossing them appropriately. Improper cleaning can result in cavities.

To see if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, book an appointment online or over the phone with the Centre for Contemporary Dental Concepts today.

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