Wisdom Teeth and Oral Health

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Wisdom Teeth and Oral Health

X-ray scan of teeth with wisdom teeth highlighted in red

During childhood and adolescence, primary and secondary teeth erupt in our mouths and influence how we eat and speak. Wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth to develop, but typically erupt misaligned or affect surrounding teeth, creating the need for their removal. Although it may not be a fun experience to have wisdom teeth removed, improperly erupted wisdom teeth can cause havoc in the mouth, including cysts and tumors. Find out how wisdom teeth affect your oral health and what the removal process looks like with this guide!


What Is A Wisdom Tooth?

After birth, each of us will develop primary (baby) teeth that will eventually erupt, fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. However, the adult teeth that we use for the rest of our lives aren’t the only ones residing in our mouths. Wisdom teeth, or third molars, develop between the ages of 17 and 21, and they are our last set of teeth that will erupt during our lifetimes. The third set of molars are referred to as wisdom teeth because they develop later on in life, since we’re typically “more mature” than we were in our younger years. Although their functionality is questionable, some physicians assume that wisdom teeth developed in our ancestors’ lifetimes whenever their second molars wore out from eating abrasive foods. The typical diet during history has shown to be abrasive to teeth, but now that foods are softer, the mouth doesn’t necessarily need them. Wisdom teeth are notorious for being painful as they interact with surrounding teeth, and many patients get them removed for this purpose. However, some patients never develop wisdom teeth in the first place, or they only develop one or two. Some, on the other hand, only partially erupt while others stay buried within the gum tissue. The latter are called “impacted”, and they can be covered by the gums or bone. Most patients report minor discomfort as their wisdom teeth break through the gums, which is normal. This insinuates that the wisdom teeth are healthy and forming correctly. Healthy wisdom teeth help with chewing and do not necessitate removal. Those that experience pain during this process, though, should visit with their dentist, in which case they will be removed. 


The Removal Process

You will need to meet with your dentist for an evaluation before your wisdom teeth can be removed. When wisdom teeth grow in sideways or only partially emerge, a variety of problems can occur. Bacteria easily grows around the opening of partially emerged teeth, which can cause a painful infection, swelling and illness. Wisdom teeth are also known to crowd and damage other teeth close by, plus they can make it difficult to floss between them and the molars around them, which can lead to tooth decay. Other common reasons to have wisdom teeth removed include pain, cysts, tumors, gum disease and damage to healthy teeth. Cysts and tumors can cause damage to the jaw bone and put a high amount of pressure on the nerves, while gum disease can ruin your teeth. 


Most wisdom teeth removals use some form of anesthesia to numb the mouth for the procedure. Depending on your needs/wants, you could opt in for IV sedation, local anesthetic, oral sedation, general anesthesia or nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Once your choice of anesthetic has been administered, your wisdom teeth will be removed and you’ll remain in the office for some time to recuperate before going home. You will need someone to drive you home as you will be too impaired to drive after the procedure. Most physicians prefer removing wisdom teeth during early adulthood as the teeth roots have not solidified into the jaw bone, but older patients can still have theirs removed if they pose a problem. Additionally, those wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances will typically have their wisdom teeth removed at the end of their treatment to prevent them from altering tooth alignment. The bottom line is if your wisdom teeth ever cause you pain, schedule an appointment with your dentist for early treatment before more complicated problems arise in the future. 


Keeping Teeth HealthyYoung woman checking teeth in mirror after dental treatment

Our adult teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but how we care for them determines how long they stay with us. Once we lose our adult teeth, there are no other that will replace them, so it’s important that we take good care of them today so that they can last for decades to come. Sticking to a regular oral hygiene routine is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your teeth from plaque accumulation, cavities and tooth decay. Brushing and flossing each day will remove food particles that are stuck on and in between teeth, while decreasing your chances of decay and increasing your likelihood for a healthy smile. Visiting your dentist every six months is another way that you can prevent decay from occurring and will make it easier to find out how many wisdom teeth you have and where they are developing. Your dentist can X-ray your teeth to see where they are and how they’re moving, which can help you decide when to have them removed, if at all. 


How To Get Started

If your wisdom teeth are hurting you or you can see them coming in, call Mountain Aire Dentistry at (303) 731-7755 to schedule an examination. Dr. Berry and his staff have years of experience successfully removing wisdom teeth and helping patients develop a beautiful smile. Call today to find out more!