Most patients know wisdom teeth for one thing: they need to be removed, usually in your late teens or early twenties. This removal is necessary because wisdom teeth can grow sideways or get stuck under your gums for lack of room to grow. Dentists call this impaction, and it’s a common problem with wisdom teeth.
However, there are some other common wisdom teeth problems that you might not know about. Here are 7 of them, with ways that Arkansas Family Dental can help improve your oral health and give you the smile that you’ve always wanted!
The growth and position of wisdom teeth
Teeth have a natural position that they should grow into. Wisdom teeth, which are also called “third molars” because they come in after your first and second set, are usually the last to come in (or erupt). They typically come in one at a time, but when they do, their biting surface or level should all be the same.
Unfortunately, however, wisdom teeth don’t always behave as expected. Because there’s so little room that far back in your mouth, your wisdom teeth (or tooth) might come in at an angle, or even sideways. This unnatural position forces the tooth to push against the molar next to it, which pushes the one next to it, and so on, until those other teeth become crooked.
This is why your dentist wants to remove your wisdom teeth as quickly as possible. Moreover, if you don’t get them removed, you risk getting an infection or a cyst, and both can damage your jaw bone or gum tissue.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
No; contrary to common belief, all wisdom teeth do not necessarily need to be removed. If a wisdom tooth can erupt into a normal position without affecting the molars next to it, the tooth may not need to be extracted. However, if your dentist predicts future complications, they may still decide to perform the extraction procedure.
7 common wisdom teeth problems
Pain is one of the most common symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth that need to be removed. This is because an impacted wisdom tooth can’t realign itself into a correct position. It will keep growing incorrectly, causing more problems and more pain for you.
This pain may also radiate to other parts of your mouth. Along with causing pain in your gums and other teeth, it could cause your temporomandibular joint (TMJ—the joint that connects your jaw bone to your skull)—to hurt. This pain, as well as other pain and swelling, will only continue unless you visit your dentist right away.
2. Food entrapment
Food entrapment can happen when spaces called “pseudo pockets” form between the tooth and the gum. Along with potentially causing painful gum swelling, these pockets can trap food particles inside of them. If left for long periods, these trapped food particles can further inflame the gums and may even lead to infection or abscess.
A wisdom tooth can become infected when it breaks the skin to partially erupt. This exposes the area to bacteria (especially from the trapped food particles mentioned above), which causes swelling from an infection called pericoronitis.
Symptoms of pericoronitis include pain in or around the tooth, pain in your jaw, pain in the side of your face, bad breath, a bad taste, difficulty chewing, and fever. Pericoronitis is serious, but it’s especially serious if you already have a weak immune system.
It can be difficult to clean partially erupted wisdom teeth since they’re so far back in your mouth. However, if you don’t keep them clean, you risk plaque and bacteria buildup, which can decay wisdom teeth just as it can your other teeth. Note, though, that unlike other teeth that might just require a filling, crown, or root canal to reverse decay, it’s best to remove the wisdom teeth altogether when decay sets in.
5. Damage to second molars (and more)
It’s important to remember that any of these 7 problems aren’t just problems for the wisdom teeth themselves: they’re also problems for the molars next to them (called “second molars”). For example, impacted wisdom teeth can push against the second molars, causing pain and crooked growth in the process.
Aside from the impaction, however, infection and decay could also be dangerous for these teeth. Additionally, if the infection spreads, it could be dangerous to other parts of your body as well.
Symptoms of a spreading tooth infection include feeling unwell, running a fever, face swelling, dehydration, and an increased heart rate. Get medical help right away if your chest also starts hurting or if it becomes hard to breathe.
An impacted wisdom tooth can cause a fluid-filled sac called a dentigerous cyst to develop in the jaw bone and tissue. These cysts are benign, meaning that they’re not particularly dangerous. However, if the cyst grows, it can damage your second molars and even the bone supporting them. Because of this, your dentist will need to remove the cyst along with the offending wisdom tooth/teeth.
7. Orthodontic complications
An impacted wisdom tooth may also make it difficult to fix the teeth that have become even slightly crooked from the impaction. This is because there’s likely more damage than what you can see above the gums.
For example, if the impacted tooth has pushed against your second molar, it has created structural problems at the root of that molar—not just the crookedness that you see. Moreover, the more that the impacted tooth pushes against the second molar, the less space there is to clean between them. This creates issues of plaque buildup and potential decay from that buildup, all from the initial impaction alone.
For more information
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, one that solves serious oral health problems and prevents future ones as well. If you find yourself facing any of the above symptoms, it may be time for you to reach out to a dentist and arrange for it.
Arkansas Family Dental is here to help! We make it our mission to care for you, no matter the extent of your oral health needs. Give us a call at (501) 683-8886 for more information, or submit our online form to schedule an appointment today.