Meddlesome Molars

When is the Right Time to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Even before their wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 16 and 25, a lot of people know they’re eventually going to have to come out. In fact, it’s estimated that some 85% of people will have to have their wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, removed at some point in their life.

So while that other 15% may never have to worry about wisdom teeth extraction, most of us know it’s coming sooner or later. The only question is: How soon?

Don’t Delay on Treatment

If you’re experiencing any symptoms that may be caused by wisdom teeth, it’s important to see your dentist right away rather than wait for your next appointment. If you’re not sure your wisdom teeth are to blame, your dentist can take an X-ray to see if they’re causing problems, or if they’re poised to cause problems in the future. Studies have shown that as many as 80% of young adults have at least one wisdom tooth that hasn’t broken through, and the third molars are much more likely to cause problems if they haven’t erupted fully.

Among the most common reasons for removal are:

Logistical Issues

Often, the big problem with wisdom teeth is that they’re, well, big. It’s common for people to find that there’s just not enough room in their mouth for wisdom teeth to grow properly. As a result, the third molars can crowd, or even damage, nearby teeth by their mere presence alone. Alternatively, the wisdom teeth may grow in at awkward angles, or even horizontally – at a 90-degree angle from the rest of the teeth.

Of course, if the wisdom teeth show up but don’t grow in, that situation can create its own set of problems. The teeth may remain out of sight, partially or completely hidden by the gums and/or jawbone. When a tooth isn’t fully erupted, it gets much more difficult to clean – and that can lead to infections, especially of the soft tissue behind the lower last tooth. An infection can be temporarily treated with antibiotics or antiseptic mouthwash, but if it’s caused by stubborn wisdom teeth, the infection will most likely come back later.

Pain & Discomfort

As with many health problems, a patient’s first sign of a problem with wisdom teeth is often pain. Pain may be a sign of force being exerted by teeth trying to occupy more space than the mouth can afford them; patients often mention pressure on the back of the teeth. Pain can also be caused by infections, as described above. And it may not be limited to the teeth. Infection in the teeth and gums can easily lead to cellulitis, which is a bacterial infection of the cheek, tongue or throat.

Inadequate cleaning of a tooth that can’t be adequately cleaned can also result in gum disease, cavities, and abscesses. In some cases, if left untreated for long enough, infections born of wisdom teeth complications can lead to benign growths, or to cysts that can damage tooth roots and bone.

Concerns About the Future

There may be other reasons why wisdom teeth that are not yet bothering the patient might need to come out. For example, their presence may interfere with other dental or jaw-related treatments in the patient’s future, such as braces or Invisalign.

Beyond that, dentists may conclude, upon careful study of X-rays, that a young patient’s wisdom teeth are unlikely to ever fully erupt. In these cases, the dentist could recommend the third molars come out before they ever present a problem. Extraction is typically easier on young adults; it can be beneficial to remove the wisdom teeth before the patient’s roots and bone are fully formed, and they recover more quickly from the procedure as well. And because extraction is a surgical procedure, the patient must be sufficiently healthy to undergo surgery.

Wisdom Teeth May Not Require Removal…

There’s always the possibility that your wisdom teeth may never need to come out. For one thing, some people simply never get wisdom teeth to begin with. And for those who do, it’s not necessary to remove wisdom teeth if all of them are:

  • Fully erupted
  • Positioned properly
  • Biting in alignment with opposing teeth
  • Possible to clean as part of daily oral hygiene
  • Otherwise healthy

In addition, wisdom teeth may be able to act as erstwhile replacements for lost or damaged molars. 

… But if They Do, We Can Help

Removal of wisdom teeth is a low-risk operation, but it’s still worth taking seriously. If you’re experiencing problems you suspect are caused by wisdom teeth, our experienced team will examine closely to determine whether they need to come out.

If they do, we’ll walk you through our process for extraction. We’ve streamlined and perfected our process for removal of third molars to maximize your comfort and minimize your recovery time. Reach out to Springfield Dental Group today to schedule your appointment!