Wisdom teeth are the third molars at the back of our mouths and usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. Not everyone will develop wisdom teeth, but the majority of us do and will likely require them to be removed. In most cases, it is impacted wisdom teeth that require removal. If your dentist suggests that you remove your wisdom tooth but you’re hesitant to do so or are waiting it out, your decision might actually do you more harm than good. Here’s why.
First, what does it mean for wisdom teeth to be impacted?
A wisdom tooth is considered impacted if it gets stuck under your gum or does not have enough room to break through the gum. This generally happens if you have a small jaw or if the tooth grows at the wrong angle, causing the tooth to become impacted. You may notice your impacted wisdom tooth break through your gums a little or erupt sideways — this is called a partially impacted wisdom tooth; which if not removed puts you at risk of gum disease and infection.
Impacted or not, many of our patients at first do not realise they have wisdom teeth unless our dentists point it out to them or if symptoms appear. With that said, some impacted wisdom teeth do not show symptoms at all, but they should still be removed to prevent dental problems down the road.
How do you know if your wisdom teeth are coming in?
Some common indications of a wisdom tooth include:
- Swelling of the gums
- Bleeding or tender gums
- Jaw pain
- Bad breath
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Pain or discomfort when chewing
Additionally, if the wisdom tooth breaks through the gums, you may experience headaches or a fever. In some instances, you may also notice a small flap of gum around the area of the emerging tooth. If you start experiencing these symptoms, please see your dentist as soon as possible to avoid potential complications!
What is the wisdom tooth surgery procedure like?
Depending on your comfort level and expected complexity of your wisdom tooth extraction, you’ll be put on local anaesthesia, sedation anaesthesia or general anaesthesia. Most patients usually opt for local anaesthesia, where they remain fully awake during the procedure but do not experience pain at all.
During the procedure, our dentists will:
- Make an incision in the gum tissue to access the tooth
- Remove any bone that blocks access to the tooth root
- Remove the tooth. If it’s easier, our dentists may divide the tooth into sections and remove it in pieces
- Clean the site, stitch the wound and place a gauze over the extraction site to control bleeding
Is it necessary to remove my wisdom tooth?
If you’re lucky enough to have a wisdom tooth that’s healthy, fully erupted and positioned correctly with your neighbouring teeth that’s not difficult to clean, brush and floss, then extraction is not always necessary. Unfortunately, close to 70% of us develop at least one impacted or partially impacted wisdom tooth that can result in:
Cysts or tumours
The wisdom tooth can develop in a sac within the jawbone, which fills with fluid and forms a cyst. This may in turn damage your jawbone, surrounding teeth and nerves. In rare cases, a benign tumour may develop, requiring the removal of tissue and bone.
Tooth decay and gum disease
Depending on its position, an impacted wisdom tooth —especially a partially erupted one— can cause food to be trapped between the tooth and gums easily. This makes the tooth extremely challenging if not impossible to clean, which causes bacteria and cavities to grow and potentially lead to gum disease. We’ve also seen cases where the cavities and decay from the wisdom tooth spread to the adjacent molar, causing the patient to do additional procedures like a root canal treatment to save the molar. Think about how much time and money they could’ve saved had they removed the wisdom tooth earlier!
As wisdom teeth are essentially considered ‘extra’ teeth, they can crowd or damage other teeth if they lack enough space when they emerge. Crowded teeth could over time lead to an array of dental problems such as bite issues and gum disease.
Our dentists often see patients put off their wisdom tooth removal due to their fear of pain and belief that wisdom teeth need not be removed if they have no symptoms or do not cause problems. Again, not all wisdom teeth exhibit symptoms but this does not mean they can be left alone. In addition, many dental conditions caused by wisdom teeth develop without warning, so it’s best not to set any unnecessary anxiety for yourself.
If you wish to get your wisdom teeth removed or are unsure if your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, please make an appointment with us and we’ll be happy to help.
- Dodson, T. B., & Susarla, S. M. (2010). Impacted wisdom teeth. BMJ clinical evidence, 2010, 1302.
- Mettes, T. G., Nienhuijs, M. E., van der Sanden, W. J., Verdonschot, E. H., & Plasschaert, A. J. (2005). Interventions for treating asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth in adolescents and adults. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (2), CD003879. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003879.pub2