It seems like almost everyone you know has a story to tell about wisdom teeth. Some people don’t have them. Some people have had them removed and share tales of woe about oral surgery recovery. Some people have wisdom teeth, but may only have two or three instead of four. And few people have wisdom teeth and have been able to keep them instead of having them removed.
Overall, wisdom teeth pose a problem for most people. Wisdom teeth – also called third molars – usually erupt between ages 16 and 25. While a few people experience no complications or concerns related to wisdom teeth, more than 80 percent of Americans will have wisdom teeth removed at some point in their lives. Regular visits to the dentist can not only help you maintain your overall dental health, your dental care provider can also help you watch out for issues that may be caused by wisdom teeth.
Even if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing you pain or discomfort, they could be causing damage. Not removing problem wisdom teeth in a timely fashion can lead to oral infection, bone damage, misaligned teeth, headaches, jaw problems and much more.
Infection: When wisdom teeth do not fully erupt, they can lead to pericoronitis, a bacterial infection of the gums. Partially erupted wisdom teeth can create unusual gaps above and below the gum line that allow food and bacteria to become trapped in the oddly-shaped spaces, leading to further complications. This can sometimes be treated with a simple saline oral rinse, but more often leads to swelling and pain which require antibiotics and even oral surgery to correct.
Bone Damage: the placement of some wisdom teeth below the gum line can cause agonizing and damaging cysts and hollow spots in the jaw bone, which can easily lead to a jaw fracture. In addition, substantial damage to the gums can develop, which could lead to the need for painful gum-grafting or additional invasive treatment.
Crooked Teeth: wisdom teeth often create pressure on other teeth within the mouth. This crowding can lead to damage and even cavities and decay. When a wisdom tooth erupts in a crooked position, it will crowd and push neighboring teeth, often causing cracking or other damage. This crowding can be so severe that your bite becomes misaligned, which can lead to the need for not only wisdom teeth removal but also corrective orthodontics.
The fear of wisdom teeth removal usually far worse than procedure itself. Wisdom tooth removal is a short, outpatient procedure. Pain medication and anesthetic are used to ensure that you are comfortable during and following the procedure. Recovery time is about one week, and your oral surgeon will probably require one follow up appointment after the procedure to check the healing process.
Be wise. Schedule routine oral care checkups with your dentist. And if your oral health care provider suggests a consultation with an oral surgeon to discuss wisdom teeth removal. Delaying needed treatment can cause additional pain and health care concerns. Addressing the problem promptly and quickly means you’ll be smiling again in no time.
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