5 Signs You Need to Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Understanding the Role of Wisdom Teeth
With a name like “wisdom teeth,” you’d think that finally getting them would be a good thing, right? In reality, getting wisdom teeth isn’t an inherently good or bad thing; it simply means you’re getting older! They’re called “wisdom teeth” because they generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. Despite their grand name, about 85% of people end up needing to have their wisdom teeth extracted at some point in their lives.
If your dentist has recently told you that your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, you might find yourself with a lot of questions about wisdom tooth extraction. Why do they so often need to be extracted, and what signs may indicate that your wisdom teeth need to go? We want you to understand and feel comfortable with the entire process and how it impacts you, so we’ve broken down the answers to these questions.
Why do so many people need to get their wisdom teeth extracted?
As modern humans have developed over thousands of years, we’ve gone through a few changes to adapt to new environments and circumstances. One of these changes is that our jaws have become smaller, a change that’s theorized to be caused by our ancestors beginning to cook their food and then later the birth of agriculture; both of these changes made food easier to chew.
Despite the smaller size of our jaws, though, we still develop the same number of teeth. As a result, there isn’t always room in our jaws for the last set of molars in the back of our mouths called wisdom teeth.
Their eruption can lead to several oral health issues. This is also why removing wisdom teeth isn’t harmful to your oral health like it would be if you had any other tooth extracted. It doesn’t leave a gap along your jaw or cause bone loss simply because there wasn’t room for the tooth in the first place.
On the contrary, removing wisdom teeth that are causing—or are going to cause—oral health issues can be beneficial to your long-term oral health. Not all wisdom teeth cause oral health issues, but there are often clear signs when one needs to be extracted.
When a wisdom tooth doesn’t have room to erupt properly, it can become impacted (trapped beneath your gumline). Wisdom teeth may be partially impacted, which is when it peeks past your gumline but is unable to finish erupting, or fully impacted.
Impacted wisdom teeth may grow straight up and down the way they’re meant to, but they may also grow at an angle, sometimes even pushing into the neighboring molar. This can cause problems of its own, potentially damaging the tooth it’s pressing against.
No matter which way your impacted wisdom tooth is angled, it can increase your risk of developing gum disease in the area and can lead to an infection. Thankfully, impacted teeth are easily diagnosed with a dental X-ray, and some dentists recommend removing them as a preventive measure even if they aren’t causing any immediate problems.
Wisdom teeth that grow in at an angle and press against nearby molars can do more than just damage the tooth they’re pressing against. That pressure can cause them to begin shifting your teeth in your jaw as the wisdom tooth makes room for itself. This leads to an issue called overcrowding, where your teeth are pressed too close together, making them harder to clean effectively and therefore increasing your risk of developing cavities or gum disease.
As they shift, your teeth can also become more crooked, impacting the overall appearance of your smile. This is particularly problematic if you’ve already undergone orthodontic treatments and want to keep your smile looking beautifully straight.
If you start noticing these changes in your teeth, it may be time to remove your wisdom tooth before it does lasting damage. Thankfully, regularly visiting your dentist in Stevensville, MI, will allow them to keep an eye on the development of your wisdom teeth and prevent this. By taking X-rays of your jaw, your dentist should be able to see the angle of your wisdom teeth and act before they begin to affect your other teeth.
Toothaches and Jaw Pain
Wisdom teeth eruption can cause quite a bit of pain in the back of your mouth, nearby teeth, and your jaw as a whole, especially if they are coming in at an odd angle or aren’t erupting correctly. Pressure against your teeth from a wisdom tooth that’s coming in at an angle can cause a toothache, while the shifting of teeth in your jaw can change the way they fit together and lead to pain or stiffness in your jaw. It may become painful or difficult to open and close your mouth or chew during meals, which is far from ideal!
Pain caused by your wisdom teeth can be sporadic, seeming to come and go randomly, or it can be constant. Any time you’re experiencing tooth or jaw pain, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause and treat it so you can have lasting relief.
Swelling is another common sign that it may be time to remove your wisdom teeth. Partially impacted wisdom teeth are particularly difficult to clean, raising the risk of gum disease in the surrounding gums. This can cause your gums to become swollen and irritated, and they may begin bleeding easily.
This isn’t a minor issue you can ignore; gum disease that’s left untreated can worsen and damage your gums and teeth permanently, possibly even leading to tooth loss. This poses a risk to your nearby teeth, so it’s important to deal with it as well as your wisdom tooth if it’s the cause of your gum disease.
Additionally, impacted wisdom teeth can become infected and cause swelling in your jaw and face in addition to other symptoms, like pain, swollen gums, a bad taste in your mouth, and bad breath that persists even after you brush and floss your teeth. If you have an infected wisdom tooth, you may also notice that your jaw is warmer to the touch than the rest of your body and may even develop a fever.
An infected wisdom tooth—or any other infected tooth—is a serious oral health issue that needs to be addressed with an emergency dental appointment, so if you notice any of these symptoms, call your dentist right away.
Earaches or Headaches
The pressure, tension, and inflammation in your jaw caused by an erupting wisdom tooth can also lead to frustrating symptoms that go beyond your jaw, like earaches and headaches. Not everyone experiences both earaches and headaches because of their wisdom teeth, but for some people, one or both of these symptoms can become quite frequent. It can become disruptive to your daily life, from school or work to your social life, especially if your headaches or earaches are severe. Thankfully, resolving the problem is often as simple as removing the wisdom teeth that are causing it, allowing you to get back to fully enjoying pain-free days again!
Your dentist can assess the state of your wisdom teeth.
While wisdom tooth extractions are incredibly common, they aren’t always necessary. When they’re needed, though, they can make a huge difference in your daily life by relieving a range of often painful symptoms while protecting the health, function, and even the appearance of your other teeth. This is also why it’s so important to keep an eye on your wisdom teeth with your dentist, as they can identify issues with them before they become a big deal. If you’d like to learn more about your wisdom teeth or wisdom teeth extraction and whether it’s right for you, feel free to schedule a consultation at our Saint Joseph or Berrien dental clinic at any time.