It seems that removing wisdom teeth has become a rite of passage into adulthood, but is it always necessary to remove them? The answer varies because each case is different. While it is true that extracting wisdom teeth can prevent dental problems, both now and later, only after assessing the growth, position and impact on surrounding teeth can we decide whether it’s best to remove them.
Here are the top reasons why we would or would not recommend removing wisdom teeth:
We recommend removing wisdom teeth when…
- They cause gum problems. Impacted wisdom teeth crowd other teeth and cause pain and swelling, especially when only they only partially erupt (push themselves up through jawbone and gum tissue into the mouth). Partially erupted (impacted) teeth may lead to infections, cysts or tumors in the gum tissue or jawbone. These are serious problems that negatively affect your overall health. Incompletely erupted teeth can create deep pockets around themselves where bacteria and food can collect and infection can develop.
- Their growth can cause damage to neighboring teeth. Deep pockets around incompletely erupted teeth create areas where bacterial plaque, calculus and food collect. Cavities on tooth roots may develop in these areas. If cavities do develop on the roots of the neighboring teeth, extraction of the wisdom teeth and the neighboring teeth will likely be required.
- The position of the tooth hinders jaw movement or affects chewing function in any way. Does the wisdom tooth scrape the soft tissues in your mouth? Does it cause you to bite your cheek? Does food get caught under the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth and cause swollen and/or painful gums that you bite while chewing? These are concerns that need to be addressed to keep you chewing your food well and facilitating digestion.
- It’s clear they won’t fully erupt and they are either: (1) moving in the direction of neighboring tooth roots or (2) will never come into contact with an opposing tooth. Wisdom teeth do move within the jawbone as they attempt to erupt. If they move in the direction of adjacent tooth roots and put pressure on them, the roots will resorb. This will permanently damage the adjacent tooth and will require either surgery on the affected roots or tooth extraction. Alternatively, if it’s clear that the wisdom tooth will not come into contact with its opposing tooth, it is functionally useless and the risks of keeping it can often outweigh the benefits of keeping it. Conversely, if your wisdom tooth is impacted and not causing harm in any way, it’s best to leave it in place.
Now that you know when you should remove wisdom teeth, read on for reasons why you shouldn’t.
We don’t recommend removing wisdom teeth when they are…
B. Fully erupted
C. Positioned correctly and not overly crowding adjacent teeth
D. Functioning properly
What is the process for wisdom tooth extraction?
- X-rays and an exam to confirm the need for extraction and plan the procedure.
- A consultation to discuss your options for anesthesia, sedation and to review the overall extraction process before the day of the procedure
- Administering anesthetic and possibly sedation on the day of the procedure in the comfort of the dental office
- Opening the gum tissue and removing the wisdom tooth or teeth
- Closing the gum tissue with sutures, which will be removed during a follow-up appointment (In some cases, the gum tissue is left open to heal)
- The procedure may take 1 hour or more. The doctor can give you an estimate of the time required during your consultation appointment.
What happens after wisdom tooth removal?
- Post-operative instructions will be reviewed with you in the dental office.
- Keep gauze pads in the area to help stop any bleeding.
- Ice packs may be used on your cheek(s) to help avoid or reduce swelling.
- Rest and refrain from any sports or strenuous activities for a few days.
- Avoid smoking, carbonated beverages, drinking from straws, touching the extraction site, chips and nuts and eat soft foods for 2 to 3 days.
- Take any medications prescribed as directed.
Have you felt pain or discomfort in your jaw? Are you wondering if your wisdom teeth should be removed? Contact us for an appointment and get a professional opinion. We have answers and we can help.