You’ve heard it all before, wisdom teeth, those lovely extra teeth that 65% of us have been anatomically cursed with. Have you ever asked yourself, dentist, or dental professional why it is necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed? To start with, there is a bit of irony involved with the coined phrase “wisdom teeth“, because having them doesn’t necessarily make you any wiser and it certainly doesn’t always give you superhuman chewing power either.
Wisdom teeth are dental phenomenons which are characteristically unusable because of how the body has allowed them to erupt or not erupt for that matter. Wisdom teeth usually “grow in” sideways which makes them invisible to the human eye that is until they decide to shove on your existing teeth or partially erupt through the gums occasionally resulting in complications large or small. So let’s discuss the different scenarios for wisdom teeth andwhy these necessitate removal.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth are exactly just that, (ie. wedged, compressed, crammed). Which means when these teeth are growing in the jawbone they are literally growing under the gums and are hooked into the mandible/jawbone, and most times are invisible to the human eye. It isn’t until the wisdom teeth begin to push on your existing teeth creating pockets where bacteria begins to live and breed. What does this mean exactly? Well, because of the peculiar station of the impacted teeth, a pocket can form behind the normal tooth and in front of the impacted wisdom tooth. As a result, bacteria nests in this small pocket and eventually creates decay and issues with the normal tooth, which we call the innocent bystander, this tooth is unrelated to the wisdom tooth. Destroying existing healthy teeth is never an option and there is nothing that can stop this from occurring other than removing the source of insult, which is the wisdom tooth itself. There is no home-care that will keep this area free and clear of bacteria as this seeps into the sub gingiva region, below the gums and wreaks havoc. In some rare cases, where the wisdom teeth are so vastly impacted, and there is no threat of a bacteria pocket forming, removing them can actually create more harm than good, and because of that severe impaction, the pocket is incapable of forming. 7 times out of 10, the best option is to remove these impacted wisdom teeth before they begin to do harm to the existing erupted “innocent bystanding” teeth.
Erupted wisdom teeth are wisdom teeth that have fully grown out of the jaw bone and through the gums like normal teeth, which makes these this situation a double edged sword. These particular teeth in general can be fully functional or dysfunctional, depending on the state. What makes these teeth dysfunctional? Erupted wisdom teeth have a higher likelihood of getting decay and caries due to their position and because they are so far back in the mouth they become more difficult to treat and access with a toothbrush and/or floss. The functional aspect is this, if you have erupted wisdom teeth and are able to brush and floss 2-3 x’s daily then you are highly more capable of a successful situation in keeping your wisdom, which means, more chewing power! However, these occurrences are rare. In addition to this, the older we are the harder our bone becomes which can also create issues for us down the road for removal. We always suggest to have these removed when patients are young given that the jawbone hasn’t fully grown which makes the removal easier at this time and easier on the patient.
The bottom line with wisdom teeth is this, if you have them and can use them then clean them, more than you normally would! Always consult with your dentist with advice about what is the best possible solution and situation for the removal of your wisdom teeth. As I mentioned, sometimes you can keep your wisdom teeth without ever having to remove them, but it takes a special condition for this to happen. Sometimes, removing your wisdom teeth is the best long term solution overall, due to the inability to keep these teeth clean and free of bacteria in addition to the difficulty of treating these teeth with fillings, crowns and/or root canals because of their location. It is never advised in any situation, to never wait until it hurts, because this will only prolong the inevitability of the removal and removal of wisdom teeth without infection are far easier in the long run than with infection.