The wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt in the oral cavity. They are named because they appear at an age – around 18 to 21 years – when one is expected to become maturer, wiser, and more responsible. Contrary to their name, wisdom teeth are notorious for causing various dental problems – making them one of the most commonly extracted permanent teeth, according to the American Society of Implant and Reconstructive Dentistry.
So, why do wisdom teeth cause so many soft tissue problems? This article explains everything you need to know about the problems caused by wisdom teeth and how to manage them.
Before we discuss wisdom tooth problems, let us know more about wisdom teeth.
Wisdom tooth-related problems can cause significant discomfort and pain however most of them are preventable through optimal oral hygiene care.
What is a Wisdom Tooth?
Wisdom teeth are a part of a group of permanent teeth called the molars. There are three molar teeth on each side of a jaw, or 12 molars in each mouth. The wisdom teeth are also called the third molars – they are the last ones to appear in the oral cavity and are located at the back of all the permanent teeth. The function of the wisdom teeth – including the first and second molars – is to grind food and break it down into smaller pieces to be digested easily.
Wisdom Teeth-related Soft Tissue Problems
Most wisdom teeth-related problems occur because they are unable to erupt partially or entirely into the oral cavity. When this happens, a wisdom tooth is said to have been impacted. Did you know that the prevalence of impaction is the highest in wisdom teeth?
The American Dental Association highlights various dental problems related to wisdom teeth:
When a wisdom tooth is partially or entirely impacted within the oral cavity, the soft tissues around it often get inflamed. This is because of food impaction and the difficulty of adequately cleaning this hard-to-reach area in the oral cavity. This condition is known as pericoronitis.
- Pericoronitis symptoms – common symptoms associated with pericoronitis include significant pain and discomfort, redness and swelling around the tooth, difficulty in mouth opening and chewing, and bad breath.
- What is the Treatment? – the symptoms associated with pericoronitis usually go away in a few days. Optimal oral hygiene maintenance and taking a soft diet can accelerate the healing process. You may also use painkillers to reduce the discomfort. Placing icepacks over the affected side of the face is also helpful in minimizing the swelling and pain.
Sometimes, a cyst – a fluid-filled cavity covered by a membrane – forms around a wisdom tooth. Cysts that form around the root of a wisdom tooth can cause excessive resorption (damage) to the roots or the surrounding jawbone. Long-standing cysts may even damage the neighboring teeth. Treatment of dental cysts is done according to their location; some are drained, while others may require wisdom tooth extraction.
An abscess is a pus-filled cavity that can form around a tooth or the gums. Dental abscesses can cause significant problems – and may even prove life-threatening – if not treated timely. An abscess can form around the wisdom tooth due to teeth cavities or underlying gum inflammation.
Wisdom teeth sometimes appear at irregular positions or angles. This happens when there is limited space available for them to erupt completely within the oral cavity. Improperly angled wisdom teeth can cause inadvertent cheek biting when the biting surface of a wisdom tooth is oriented towards the cheeks – causing significant pain and discomfort, possibly even inflammation or infection in the region. Your dentist may advise you to get a wisdom tooth removed if it is causing soft tissue injury.
Pain around one of your wisdom teeth can be more than just an infection. According to the American Dental Association, oral tumors – benign or malignant – can also form around the wisdom teeth, such as ameloblastoma.
What Other Problems Can Wisdom Teeth Cause?
Optimal cleaning of the teeth and gums becomes challenging around impacted wisdom teeth. As a result, there is a high prevalence of teeth cavities in wisdom teeth and their neighbors. Your dentist may advise you to get your wisdom tooth removed if they feel that it may cause more harm than good.
Being the last ones to appear, the wisdom teeth often do not find sufficient space in the oral cavity, leading to crowding. Tooth crowding creates problems in optimal teeth cleaning and eating and usually presents as an aesthetic flaw. Your dentist may remove your wisdom teeth to create space, followed by orthodontic treatment to realign the remaining teeth.
Regular dental checkups can go a long way in ensuring optimal oral and physical health.
Wisdom tooth-related problems can cause significant discomfort and pain. But the good news is that most of them are preventable through optimal oral hygiene care. More importantly, regular dental checkups can go a long way in ensuring optimal oral and physical health. This is because your dentist can diagnose problems with your wisdom teeth in their early stages that are not visible to the naked eye. Finally, if your dentist feels that one of your wisdom teeth may cause problems in the future, it is best to get it removed – and save your remaining teeth.
About the author
Dr. Fanar Swaida is a passionate and highly experienced dentist in Mississauga Ontario Canada. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, Dr. Swaida continued his formal education through multiple courses and mini residencies in a variety of dental specialties. Dr. Swaida tries to be available for his patients even during his off time and his number one priority is to make all of his patients feel comfortable and safe when they come to Rockwest Dental Clinic Mississauga.
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