Wisdom teeth are believed to be ‘evolutionary relics’ that helped our distant ancestors eat rougher foods like reed plants and raw flesh. With softer diets today, we no longer need these wisdom teeth, nor can our more refined jaw-lines accommodate them. Nevertheless, wisdom teeth still develop and usually begin to erupt in late teens or twenties. Ideally, our mouths can hold up to 28 teeth, but including wisdom teeth, we have about 32 teeth vying for space.

Wisdom teeth unable to erupt fully are referred to as being impacted. This condition can be in full or partial bone or in soft tissue, just under the gum and usually causes dental problems. If first and second molars are sound, the third molar or wisdom tooth is redundant and if causing problems, is usually extracted. Here’s a list of some dental issue indicating wisdom tooth extraction.

Severe Pain

Intense pain is the most common symptom of problematic wisdom teeth. When a tooth is impacted, it’s most often because it has nowhere to go: it’s either blocked by an adjacent tooth or there is insufficient space. Pain can also be as a result of damage to adjacent soft tissue or infection as these teeth try to erupt.

It is important to recognize that wisdom tooth pain can be intermittent. Periods of acute pain associated with eruption can be followed by relative calm. It is best to have this investigated as the tooth might have turned towards the adjacent molar with the threat of causing root resorption. This process once started cannot be arrested by dental intervention. There is a risk of losing the adjacent molar.

Swollen Gums

You can have swollen gums due to the impacted tooth hitting the adjacent fully grown teeth. This can also lead to gum infection which further affects the adjacent tooth causing more swelling and bleeding. Any oral infections should be treated as they can have systemic implications.

Bad Breath

Infection caused by plaque build-up and rotting food debris trapped when wisdom teeth erupt can cause bad breath. Bad breath, or halitosis, is not only offensive to others but can leave a nasty taste in your mouth.

Cysts causing Jaw Damage / TMJ Disorder

Cysts can form around the newly erupting tooth. Untreated, they can hollow out the jaw and damage nerves. Pain triggered while opening the mouth results when inflamed tissues are stretched. Clicking, popping or a “gravelly” sound (crepitus) in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) is sometimes observed when wisdom teeth begin to erupt.

Timing

As with many things, timing is everything when it pertains to wisdom tooth extraction. A developing wisdom tooth is much like a clenched fist. As it grows, the roots elongate and spread like the fingers of a fully opened hand. From a clinical perspective, it is easier and therefore less traumatic for a patient to have extractions performed prior to full development of wisdom teeth. Bone density is also a consideration when discussing timing. Firstly, male jaw bones tend to be denser than female jaw bones. Secondly, as teens age, the jaw bone becomes more dense to a given point of maturation that varies individually.

It is usually less of an issue to be proactive in removing wisdom teeth before development, bone density and issues of eruption complicate matters. Any assessment of wisdom teeth condition should be made by a qualified dentist who will take a panorex x-ray to evaluate what is happening below the gum as well as above. You can book a visit to a dental clinic near you and know more about wisdom tooth extraction.