Many teens see their wisdom teeth as a rite of passage. Some people never have any problems with them while they bother others at a very young age. In reality, wisdom teeth typically continue developing up to age 30, so even some young adults never have problems until they’ve graduated college and are out on their own.
Wisdom teeth typically only need to be removed if they are causing chronic pain, infection, or damage to the teeth around them. Even if the 3rd set of molars erupts straight in place, keeping them clean may be almost impossible. When that happens, these healthy teeth begin to develop tooth decay that spreads to the other teeth in the mouth. It usually isn’t very feasible to restore (such as crown or place a filling on) these teeth, as decay usually returns due to continued poor hygiene. Thus, it’s more appropriate to remove the tooth to prevent decay from impacting the next molar, and so on.
Impacted wisdom teeth may be troubling as well. If they are wedged into the next tooth, the force may cause the healthy tooth to melt away. Most people never realize there is a problem until the other teeth in the mouth begin shifting forward and crowding together due to the pressure. For patients that have invested in orthodontic therapy, this is a huge concern. The crowding can literally destroy all of the tooth alignment that may have been previously achieved with braces.
Some wisdom teeth erupt only partially. There may not be enough room in the jaws, so only a small portion of the tooth shows through the gum tissues. Keeping them clean may be difficult, and food and bacteria will usually accumulate under this opening in the gums. Because it is nearly impossible to keep such an area clean, it usually develops gum disease – another condition that impacts the other teeth.
Careful monitoring of your wisdom tooth development and eruption patterns is key to avoid these common pitfalls. Using a panoramic (full mouth) radiograph, we are able to see right into the jaws and assess the development of all teeth, including the 3rd molars. If the wisdom teeth are developing properly without any complications, we simply leave them alone.
If it is evident that the wisdom teeth are going to become impacted, it may be advised to remove them proactively. This helps you avoid pain and discomfort later on when problems eventually develop.
Finally, we will monitor healthy wisdom teeth through routine dental exams to ensure that they are not developing problems throughout the years, such as cavities or gum disease. Many people live with disease-free wisdom teeth and never have a problem. The key is to keep them as clean as possible and intervene if and when something finally develops.
Your oral anatomy has a tremendous amount to do with whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed. Schedule you or your child’s exam and x-ray at Marconi Dental Group to evaluate the progress of wisdom teeth in just one visit.