What are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to develop and appear in the mouth. They enter the mouth behind the upper and lower second, or 12-year, molars. They are called “wisdom teeth” because they usually appear during the late teens or early twenties, which has been called the “age of wisdom.”
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth fails to come into the mouth normally, it is said to be “impacted.” Teeth can be completely impacted or partially impacted. Nine out of ten people have at least one completely impacted wisdom tooth, generally resulting from a lack of space in the mouth.
Why Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Periodontal and Systemic Diseases
Many people believe that as long as they are not in pain, they do not have to worry about their wisdom teeth. However, reality paints a different picture. “Asymptomatic,” or “pain free,” does not mean the absence of disease or pathology. In fact, the bacteria that cause gum disease may exist in significant numbers around asymptomatic third molars and cause damage before symptoms let you know that something is wrong. Impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to a variety of problems, including tooth decay, infection, crowding, or damage to adjacent structures and even systemic diseases.
Some of the problems caused by wisdom teeth are:
Keeping the back of your mouth clean with daily brushing and flossing is difficult in the best of circumstances. When wisdom teeth are present, good oral hygiene in this area is virtually impossible; a situation that often leads to cavities and tooth loss. New research has shown that more young adults have decay in the wisdom tooth area than was previously thought. Of those studied between 23 and 34 years of age, over 40% had experienced cavities in their wisdom teeth.
Infection around the Gums
Bacterial infection and inflammation often spread from wisdom teeth to other teeth. They may also lead to receding gums, bone loss and the possibility of loosened teeth.
Damage to the Roots, Nerves and Sinus
A young adult’s wisdom teeth generally have incomplete root systems, making the surgery relatively uncomplicated. As wisdom teeth mature, their roots lengthen and may become involved with surrounding sensory nerves or the sinus area. In these cases, surgery may be more involved with a greater chance of complications.
Cyst and Tumor Formation
A fully impacted wisdom tooth sits in the jawbone, surrounded by the sac in which teeth develop. Over time this sac may enlarge. As the sac grows it may damage the jaw, neighboring teeth and the surrounding area. Although rare, tumors can develop from the same tissues that surround an impacted tooth, requiring extensive surgery and reconstruction.
Perhaps the greatest threat to a healthy mouth is a bacterial infection that starts between your teeth and gums. This infection often spreads to neighboring teeth and gums and may be transported through the bloodstream to other parts of the body – potentially contributing to diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and other systemic health problems. Studies have also found that periodontal disease in expectant mothers is strongly associated with a greater likelihood of preterm and low birth-weight babies.
Is Surgery to Remove Wisdom Teeth Right for You?
Researchers strongly recommend that in order to prevent future problems, wisdom teeth, even those that appear problem free, be removed prior to age 25. A study of 4,000 patients showed that patients older than 25 were one-and-a-half times more likely to experience complications while having their wisdom teeth removed, with the risks increasing with age. In short, it makes good sense to have your wisdom teeth removed earlier rather than later.
For more information about Wisdom Teeth, please click the following link: http://myoms.org/procedures/wisdom-teeth-management