These days wisdom tooth extractions are common occurrences, especially in young adults. It’s estimated that 5 million people have their third molars, aka wisdom teeth, removed each year. What you may not be aware of is that not all cases require oral surgery. In fact, only 40% of removals are actually necessary. Wisdom teeth aren’t inherently detrimental to oral health. Extraction is necessary when they become problematic. Discomfort and pain are obvious reasons for removing wisdom teeth. However there are other, less obvious, reasons that wisdom teeth should be removed. These are some of those reasons.
Molars that are tilted or on an angle can interfere with other teeth. This can scrape surrounding teeth and irritate the gums, resulting in discomfort. Poorly aligned third molars can also be difficult to clean. When teeth, wisdom or otherwise, aren’t brushed and flossed the result is tooth decay and gum disease. Dentists like Dr. Nate Lewis encourages the removal of any wisdom teeth that cannot be cleaned to avoid Periodontal Disease (gum disease). Periodontal Disease “may lead to bone loss and eventual loss of the tooth.” So that one wisdom tooth can cause a lot of problems if left untreated.
It may be surprising to know that not all impacted molars require extraction. There are different types of impaction with full bony impactions being the most innocuous and least problematic. Full bony impactions involve the tooth fully impacted into the jawbone. Most impacted wisdom teeth extractions are caused by partially erupted teeth. This type of impaction involves just a portion of the molar-sticking out of the gums. If left untreated this impaction can lead to infection, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Another reason to extract wisdom teeth is Pericoronitis, a bacterial infection that occurs in the crown of the tooth. Inflammation occurs when the impacted tooth becomes inundated with bacteria. Infected molars can cause pounding headaches and pain in the jaw, neck and throat. Since there’s no way to clean the sac in the tooth (where the bacteria enter) the only option is extracting the tooth.
This doesn’t usually happen, but when it does it is one of the most severe consequences of impacted molars. Even more serious than a dental cyst is a tumor. Both must be extracted immediately. They usually form in teeth that have died from infection or trauma. Cysts and tumors are also found in the crowns of buried teeth. The latter need an x-ray to be seen since they are buried under the gums.
Wisdom teeth in the upper jaw are located right below the sinuses. If the roots of the wisdom teeth push into the sinuses problems can occur. In some cases, a sinus infection can arise from an impacted molar. Sinus infections can be especially unpleasant, leading to congestion, headaches, and inflammation. While this is not isn’t especially common, it is a case for removing the problematic tooth as to avoid reoccurring sinus infections.
Just as the wisdom teeth in the upper jaw can disrupt the sinuses, the teeth in the lower jaw can disrupt the neurovascular bundle and the nerves in the tongue. Disruption of any nerves can lead to a loss of sensation. There is some concern that removing the third molars can actually cause nerve damage, and while this is a possibility, it is an extremely small chance of this occurring.
If you suspect that you have any of the above issues make sure to visit your dentist, especially if you are experiencing any pain. Even if your wisdom teeth aren’t giving you any problems, check with your dentist, he will know. Your dentist will go over all your options and see if wisdom tooth extraction is right for you.