Wisdom teeth are commonly seen as a rite of passage for many teenagers and young adults, but because some older adults have their wisdom teeth taken out later in life, it begs the question, “When should wisdom teeth be removed?”
Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth are generally the last to come in and are located at the back four corners of the mouth. The primary reason people have them removed is because they are currently or are soon forecasted to complicate a person’s dental health. With oral health considered to be a critical barometer of an individual’s overall health, it is essential to remove wisdom teeth before they begin causing serious dental issues.
When Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
A reputable Houston dentist will be able to chart the progress of a person’s wisdom teeth every six months when they come in for a regular teeth cleaning. Panoramic x-rays taken every 3-5 years will help dentists see any subtle movement of these molars.
Although it is true that some patients may not need to have their wisdom teeth removed, they tend to be the exception to the rule. Most people do need to have these teeth removed to avoid intense pain and related complications that can become quite serious. The earlier in life a person’s wisdom teeth are extracted, the less painful it may be. After a person hits thirty years old, these molars can begin to fuse to the jawbone, making for a more difficult extraction.
Here are ten key signs that it may be time for your wisdom teeth to come out:
- The odds of developing a problem in the near future due to the angulation of third molars. In early stages of development the Houston dentist can already indicate that these molars will present problems in the future. In such cases, some dentists may recommend that even though patients are not experiencing any problems, to go ahead and have the molars extracted. This is considered more of a preventative measure but could save patients pain and future complications that would have still resulted in needing to have their wisdom teeth removed.
- Stinky breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth. While bad breath can be caused by a number of different things including ingesting certain types of food or practicing poor hygiene, it and an unpleasant taste in the mouth could also be from a rotting wisdom tooth or a tooth adjacent to it.
- Intense pain. If you begin to feel intense pressure or pain in the back of the mouth where the wisdom teeth grow, it may be a sign that they need to be removed. While most patients feel pain in the back of the mouth, it is also possible to feel pain radiating to other areas of the mouth. Whether you suspect your wisdom teeth to be the problem or not, intense tooth pain qualifies as a reason to make an appointment as soon as possible with your regular Houston dentist.
- Gum inflammation. When bacteria, plaque, and/or food gets trapped underneath gum tissue it can spell trouble if it is not addressed quickly. The most notable effect is the swelling of the gums. Inflamed gums near a person’s wisdom teeth may become red and sensitive. This often means that these teeth could be either partially erupted or impacted.
- Impaction. Wisdom teeth can become impacted when they grow without breaking through the gums. If these teeth are not visibly emerging, it can mean that they have grown at an odd angle which can in turn pose a problem for adjacent teeth. The movement of third molars can cause a whole host of issues such as resorption of adjacent roots, crowding of the rest of the teeth in that area, and even cysts in the jawbone. While it is possible for some patients with impacted molars to feel discomfort and/or pain, others may not be aware of anything at all. This is part of what makes regular dental appointments so critical for oral care.
- Crowding of the teeth. Because these molars are so large compared to other teeth and are the last to come in, there is a possibility they can still cause crowding of the teeth without impaction. For some people, wisdom teeth that do not have a opposing tooth can grow too long. This can cause decay in neighboring teeth because it is more difficult to clean effectively with daily brushing and flossing.
- Cavities. This is often the result when wisdom teeth crowd out the surrounding teeth. The tighter spaces between teeth make it harder to clear way food and plaque buildup which frequently results in cavities. Each tooth that becomes crowded may be at a greater risk of developing a cavity, which can mean lots of time in the dental chair for fillings that could have been avoided if the molars causing the crowding had been removed in a timely manner.
- Problems with the jaw. When wisdom teeth are growing and moving, they can put pressure on the jaw when crowding takes place. Many patients report that this feels like stiffness or an uncomfortable feeling in the jaw. It may also come with painful sensations. If you begin experiencing stiffness, pain, or other changes in the jaw, it is wise to see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Development of oral cysts. Unfortunately, oral cysts can develop if an individual has let impacted wisdom teeth go unaddressed. These cysts are usually found in the gums, oral tissue, and jaw, and are often incredibly painful for patients. Even more concerning is that in some cases cysts can require jaw surgery. If you think you may have an oral cyst, let your dentist know right away.
- Issues with the sinuses. Although rare, some wisdom teeth may even be responsible for causing infection of the sinuses, making people feel uncomfortable and congested. Fortunately, in such cases, the removal of a person’s wisdom teeth can help improve issues with the sinuses fairly quickly.
The Process for Removing Wisdom Teeth
The current state of a patient’s teeth often determines if the dentist trained in the procedure will remove the person’s wisdom teeth or if that responsibility will go to an oral surgeon. The odds of having to see a surgeon can go up if the patient is already experiencing complications prior to removal of the teeth.
The extraction of these molars requires anesthesia most of the time, which can vary in application. Once it has taken effect, each wisdom tooth is removed one at a time. Few teeth pop right out on the first try and instead must be rocked back and forth to help loosen the root. If the wisdom tooth is still stubbornly attached, it may require a cut in the gum or even cutting the tooth itself into smaller pieces for easier removal. This process is typically repeated for each of the four wisdom teeth.
Recovery from the procedure depends heavily on how easily a person’s molars come out. The more wiggling and cutting required, the longer recovery may take. On average, most patients experience visible swelling of the mouth and cheeks along with some possible bruising. As the anesthesia begins to wear off, patients may also begin to feel some pain. Fortunately, most of these symptoms start to subside within two to three days following teeth extractions for the majority of patients.
One of the most common side effects from having one’s wisdom teeth pulled is dry sockets. This is the temporary condition that occurs when a blood clot moves away from the site of the extraction which in turn exposes bone. The dentist typically gives patients advance directives of what to do if they think they are experiencing dry sockets, although severe cases may require a trip back to the dentist for evaluation.
While the area heals, patients are encouraged to have liquids and soft foods that will not disturb or irritate the extraction areas. The more closely patients follow the dentist’s instructions on caring for their oral health post-extractions, the faster their recovery may be.
In general, people can expect at least one follow up visit with their Houston dentist post-procedure so that the healing process can be evaluated.
There are important time considerations to take into account when evaluating whether wisdom teeth should be removed. Since recovery can take several days, people scheduling their wisdom teeth to be removed should do so when they can afford several days in a row off of work or school. For school-age children, summers, holiday breaks, or spring breaks can be ideal times to schedule this type of procedure.
If you are wondering if your wisdom teeth should be removed, the smartest thing to do is to schedule an appointment with your Houston dentist and ask them about it during the exam. These professionals can let you know what state your wisdom teeth are currently in, what they are expected to do in the near future, and what if any action you should take.