Wisdom teeth are the third set of rearmost molars on each side of our upper and lower jaw and generally appear between the ages of 17 and 25. It is typical for adults to have four wisdom teeth but in some cases adults can have more or less.
If wisdom teeth grow in completely, align properly, are painless, healthy and can be easily accessed to keep on top of good oral hygiene then they may not require extracting. This is an ideal scenario but generally not the case. Where concern lies with wisdom teeth is when there is not enough room for the teeth to grow in completely or they grow in out of position.
Adults have an average of 32 teeth and the average mouth holds 28 teeth. If our jaw is too small to allow for the proper growth of wisdom teeth then the teeth may not fully break through the gums.
Impacted Teeth and Your Health
Wisdom teeth may grow in sideways, partially break through the gum and become lodged against other teeth which prevent complete eruption. A tooth that does not erupt fully into a functional position is considered impacted.
An impacted wisdom tooth can cause serious oral health problems.
When a tooth is impacted it can become inflamed and infection can occur. An impacted wisdom tooth places pressure on neighbouring teeth which can trigger resorption, cause damage and alter the periodontal tissues and attachment leading to pain or infection, or permanent bone loss around the neighbouring tooth.
If a wisdom tooth breaks through the gum and exposes the crown portion of the tooth this is a semi-impacted wisdom tooth. A semi-impacted wisdom tooth can also be cause for concern as this tooth is often hard to keep clean as food and bacteria can remain trapped between the gum and the partially erupted tooth. This bacteria can lead to cavities and gum disease. The semi-impacted tooth may also be covered by a flap of gum which can become irritated, infected and swollen. This infection is pericoronitis and can also occur around a wisdom tooth that is still under the gums. The pain and infection from pericoronitis is one of the reasons Dentists will recommend having wisdom teeth extracted.
Should My Wisdom Teeth Be Extracted?
Your dentist will examine your wisdom teeth along with the use of x-rays to determine if your wisdom teeth are causing present problems or will cause future problems. They will recommend the best course of action to ensure the best oral health for you.
There are times when it is not necessary to have wisdom teeth extracted. Other times, your wisdom teeth may be impacted or semi-impacted for many years without causing any apparent or immediate problems.
Your Dentist may recommend surgery to extract your wisdom teeth if:
- You have been experiencing and pain, infections or inflammation
- Your wisdom teeth have cavities that cannot be restored
- There is damage being done to neighbouring teeth or if there will be future damage done to teeth when the wisdom tooth grows in
- Cysts or tumors are present
- You are having trouble keeping your wisdom teeth clean due to them being far back at the mouth and at a difficult angle to reach with your toothbrush and floss
There are many different options available to you if your wisdom teeth need treatment. Some wisdom teeth that are erupted are very straightforward and patients are comfortable having them removed by their dentist with some local anesthetic and no sedation. In many cases, sedation is recommended for patient comfort as well as for ease of access at the back of the mouth especially if teeth are impacted and require surgical access. At North Burnaby Dental Group we are pleased to offer surgery that can be performed with the aid of intravenous sedation for your comfort and peace of mind. In some cases, if the patient has complicating medical conditions or less routine wisdom teeth, we may recommend a referral to an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical specialist for treatment. Your North Burnaby Dentist can help you to decide the best treatment options if you have wisdom teeth.