Should wisdom teeth be extracted?
Removing wisdom teeth is a fairly common procedure performed mainly because the large molars become impacted or infected and put the healthy teeth at risk. However, this is not an operation that should be taken lightly due to the possible complications and the size of the teeth themselves; opinions differ on the best course of action when the wisdom molars start to break through. Some surgeons prefer to leave the teeth in place to see how the situation develops, whilst others err on the side of caution and choose to pull them out at the first hint of impaction. Some dentists also believe that even in the case of impaction, the teeth should not be extracted unless there is an identifiable risk of infection, as the operation can occasionally be traumatic to the tissue and may do more harm than good. Read on for more information about removing impacted wisdom teeth;
How do wisdom teeth become impacted?
The only real reason that wisdom teeth become impacted is that there simply isn’t enough room for them on the jaw bone, combined with genetic makeup and a bit of bad luck. As mankind evolved, the third molar became superfluous, but that didn’t stop them from growing through anyway; because they are not really necessary, it is often thought that extracting them is the best option, regardless of their condition or level of impaction.
There are several different ways that wisdom teeth can become impacted, which can make the process of treating them complicated; the four types of impaction are described as mesial, distal, vertical, and horizontal. In each instance, the tooth is sitting at an undesirable angle in the socket and has failed to properly break through the soft tissue above it. No one can say for sure why this happens, but it is compounded by the lack of space on the jaw line and probably partly because there are fewer spaces between the teeth in the modern human – tooth loss has been significantly reduced over the last century so there is no room created by missing teeth. As dental technology progresses further, more restorative techniques are available to combat the problem of tooth loss, so fewer people are living with gap-toothed smiles these days.
Should impacted wisdom teeth be removed?
As stated earlier, there are two schools of thought on the subject, but it’s true that the large molars can become problematic if they are not dealt with properly at an early stage. If you are unsure whether your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, call the Pearl Dental Clinic and arrange a consultation with one of the dentists; there’s no need to panic about the condition straight away, but a professional opinion could really set your mind at ease. Something else you should remember is that wisdom teeth can take a long time to fully erupt, several years in some cases, so even if they appear to be impacted they may just be taking their time to break through the tissue. During the eruption process, it is fairly common to experience some pain or discomfort as the large molars start to shift in the jaw bone; this is no great cause for concern unless it becomes unbearable, for moderate toothache, an over-the-counter painkiller should be enough to manage the problem.
If you are suffering with severe dental pain due to an impacted wisdom tooth, the dentist will have to perform an x-ray to identify the area causing you pain – it might not be immediately obvious whether the molar is still erupting or if they are seriously impacted and need to be removed, but an internal assessment like this should make it clearer. It’s not just impactions that can cause difficulties either, occasionally a small section of the gum line can get caught across the crown and remain there as the tooth forces its way upwards; this provides the perfect crevice for bacteria and food debris to gather in, leading to infection. Bacterial waste and the subsequent infection that develops are the biggest problems affecting wisdom teeth, and typically these are the reasons they are extracted.
Another point worth mentioning is that it’s not just impacted molars that can cause issues; even fully erupted teeth can alter the weight distribution between the jaws and possibly change the position of the front teeth over time. As with most dental problems, panicking won’t help the situation, but ignoring a problematic wisdom tooth is not going to do much good either if orthodontic complications arise.
Should I have my wisdom teeth extracted, just to stop them causing problems?
It’s not a good idea to go rushing into anything as it can be hard to tell whether your molars will make life difficult at a later stage or whether they are just taking their time erupting. If you visit the dentist for an examination and they tell you there is no immediate risk of disease, then an extraction is probably unnecessary. It’s likely that monitoring your condition is a better way to go, that way the dentist can intervene if your teeth start to show signs of infection or damage to the second molars. Some surgeons might suggest that prevention is better than cure; meaning that the teeth should be removed even if there are no initial signs of serious impaction, but there is no real evidence to say that extracting healthy wisdom teeth is beneficial to the patient – in fact, there are those that believe removing the large molars is unnecessarily traumatic for the gums and the supporting bone and should be avoided where possible.
Although most extractions are fairly routine, it is a surgical operation that comes with its own set of complications – wisdom teeth in particular have a higher risk than other teeth just because they are so large. Their position at the back of the mouth can also make things difficult because they are more tightly connected to the blood flow through larger blood vessels, which means that they bleed more profusely after removal and the healing period is longer. Furthermore, if the tooth has grown sideways into the roots of the neighbouring teeth, invasive surgery could do some real damage to the surrounding structures without meaning to.