Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to grow in.
While some people never experience problems with their wisdom teeth, others may suffer pain, infection and other dental complications unless they are extracted.
Our Montreal dentist explains when and why it might be time to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Why do we have wisdom teeth and what are they for?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow in, usually between age 17 and 25. They are called ‘wisdom teeth’ because they grow in so much later than other teeth, at a time of life when a person is becoming more ‘wise’ and ‘rational’.
Originally, wisdom teeth were helpful for chewing (mastication), especially:
- for chewing raw meat
- for chewing tough vegetables
- to replace (eventually) the molars, which would wear out quickly.
However, as humans evolved, our jaws shrank and our diet changed, reducing the need for chewing. As a result, wisdom teeth are often placed incorrectly and require extraction to avoid potential health problems including pain, infection, cysts or cavities.
Although these teeth are no longer needed for chewing, they do help maintain the balance and shape of the jaw.
Why remove wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth that do not present any problems and have enough space to grow in properly usually do not require extraction. These are referred to as “asymptomatic” wisdom teeth.
However, wisdom teeth that cause pain, infection or damage to other teeth will need to be extracted.
There are several situations in which wisdom teeth may need to be removed.
1. Gum infections
One of the most common complications associated with wisdom teeth is gum infection. Semi-included wisdom teeth can lead to the development of gum disease causing pain and inflammation.
Since wisdom teeth are difficult to take care of properly, bacterial infiltration is quite common. This can cause infection or inflammation of the gum tissue, manifesting as pericoronitis, pulpitis, periodontitis or gingivitis. A dental abscess from an untreated cavity can also cause gum infection.
Since wisdom teeth are located at the back of the mouth, they are difficult to brush. Bacteria and food residue often become lodged between the teeth and gums. A rigorous oral hygiene routine may not be enough to prevent tooth decay, especially for partially impacted wisdom teeth.
In these cases, it is best to extract healthy wisdom teeth to avoid complications, especially as cavities on wisdom teeth are more difficult to treat and may recur. Your dentist may recommend extracting one or more wisdom teeth to maintain your oral health and avoid having to treat cavities in the future.
3. Dental cysts
When a wisdom tooth is in the wrong position, it can put pressure on surrounding teeth, causing them to move and creating pain. This can also lead to the formation of cysts around the wisdom tooth, damaging surrounding tissue and bone.
Wisdom teeth form in a sac inside the jawbone. In some cases, the wisdom tooth gets caught in this sac and fails to break through the jawbone. This can cause the envelope to expand, which in turn can lead to the formation of cysts, lesions or sometimes even a benign tumor.
Wisdom tooth removal may be necessary in this situation to avoid further damage to the bone and tissues of the jaw.
4. Orthodontic treatment
A dental extraction may also be appropriate if the wisdom tooth does not have an antagonist, or opposite tooth to bite down with, on the opposite jaw. This poses a problem because a wisdom tooth will continue to grow until it is supported. Removing the tooth will restore occlusal stability.
This is why dentists often extract both wisdom teeth on the same side, even if only one of them is causing problems.
Removing wisdom teeth: procedure and recovery
Wisdom tooth extraction is common and generally safe. However, it can seem daunting if you don’t know what to expect. The extraction process varies depending on the position of the tooth and the complexity of the situation. Wisdom tooth extraction involves 3 main steps:
- Preparation: Prior to the extraction of wisdom teeth, your dentist will perform a complete examination including a 3D dental x-ray to determine the position of the teeth and the complexity of the extraction. It is important to mention any medications and health conditions at this point. The dentist will also give you instructions for preparing your mouth before the procedure, such as not eating or drinking for a certain period.
- The Procedure: In most cases, the procedure begins with the administration of a local anesthetic to numb the area. If the tooth is embedded deep in the jaw, a general anesthetic may be required. Once the area is numbed, the dentist will use their instruments to dislodge the tooth from the jaw. In some cases, the tooth may have to be cut into several pieces to make extraction possible.
- Recovery: After extraction, pain and swelling are common. Your dentist will tell you how to take care of your mouth and relieve the pain. It is important to follow all instructions related to what to do and what to eat after having your wisdom teeth removed to avoid any potential complications, such as infection or prolonged discomfort.
Remove your wisdom teeth and improve your oral health
There are many reasons for removing wisdom teeth, as they can often cause oral health problems. It is always better to prevent than to heal, which is why your dentist may recommend removing your wisdom teeth before any damage is done.
If you think you may need to have your wisdom teeth removed, visit Clinique Dentaire 1935! Our experienced professionals are here to guide and support you throughout the extraction process – from preparation to recovery – for a pleasant and stress-free experience.
Contact us today to schedule your consultation and take the next step toward a healthier, happier mouth!