Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to emerge – they grow in the back of the mouth, on either side of the upper and lower jaw. In most people, they appear in the late teens or early twenties. With regular and routine visits to the dentist, it’s possible to monitor wisdom teeth as they grow, and to assess whether they are growing in naturally or causing over-crowding. The main reason why dentists remove wisdom teeth during the teenage years is because these teeth are less developed, and easier to remove, without any complications.
In some cases, wisdom teeth are removed when there is pain or discomfort. And while removal has become an almost routine procedure, patients still wonder if it’s always necessary. There are people whose wisdom teeth grow in naturally, without any problem, and without future issues. These people simply experience pain as the teeth grow in, but otherwise have no problems with biting or chewing. Statistically, these people are in the minority, but for most people, the wisdom teeth will create over-crowding for other teeth.
Removing wisdom teeth is surgical, and no dentist will recommend this type of tooth extraction unless it’s necessary. For example, if patients suffer from ongoing pain because of their wisdom teeth, or if there is prevalence of infection in the back of the mouth, these types of symptoms may indicate that problems are brewing. Here, the wisdom teeth removal is required to protect the rest of the teeth and the mouth from potential problems. Indeed, without removal, there may be issues that affect the jaw, and even the sinuses.
In cases where a wisdom tooth is impacted (unable to break through) there may be more than just jaw pain – the discomfort may even radiate to the ear. This is where proper diagnosis is most needed, and a plan of action required. There are also situations where emerging wisdom teeth may affect chewing and biting patterns, simply because of the tenderness of the area and the pain that is associated. Sometimes, patients will complain of headaches because their jaw is biting and chewing in a completely different pattern.
Although it’s not commonplace, wisdom teeth can actually cause sinus issues. It might just be some pressure in the sinus areas, or it might be headaches or stuffiness. Whatever the reason, the wisdom teeth in the far back of the mouth, below the sinuses, are the culprits. Patients who suffer with this discomfort would gain relief once the teeth are removed. Once again, with regular, semi-annual visits to the dentist, these types of conditions are easily monitored with x-rays and other diagnostic tools, allowing for proper treatment.
Notions about wisdom teeth have changed over the years, as have the treatment options. What’s important is proper diagnosis – and that comes from a commitment to regular oral exams, and a dentist who is dedicated to preventive dentistry. It’s the right way to assess the emerging wisdom teeth and to decide whether or not to extract. After that, it’s simply a matter of good oral hygiene.