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Instead of giving wisdom as we would like, wisdom teeth often cause problems in your mouth. Also known as the third molars, they are the last four permanent teeth to come in, and usually erupt in people in their late teens or early twenties. Because they can be problematic for anyone, even those with the best oral health, it’s important to have wisdom teeth evaluated by a dentist, and understand some of the issues that they may cause.

Common Problems with Wisdom Teeth

Often, people don’t have enough room in their mouths for wisdom teeth to come in properly. This can lead to painful crowding or wisdom teeth that can’t grow in properly, referred to as impacted teeth. There are a number of side effects associated with wisdom teeth that would make it a good idea to remove them. These include the following common issues:

  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Damage to adjacent teeth
  • Cysts

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

If wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to grow, they may become impacted. In such cases, the teeth are sideways in the jaw, crooked, or otherwise unable to erupt properly. This can cause improper bite alignment, crowding, and other problems. It is common for people to have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Your dentist is likely to recommend removing your impacted wisdom teeth if one of the following unhealthy situations is present:

  • Impacted wisdom teeth are hard to reach with your toothbrush, and thus more likely to become decayed or infected.
  • Healthy teeth can suffer damage when impacted wisdom teeth push against the teeth next to them.
  • Fluid-filled tumors or cysts can form around the base of an impacted wisdom tooth, which can damage the nearby teeth, jawbone, and nerves in the area.
  • Bacteria collecting around the impacted teeth can contribute to gum disease and can enter your bloodstream, which adversely impacts your heart and other organs in your body.

When to Remove Wisdom Teeth

If your dentist determines your wisdom teeth are likely to create complications, he will usually recommend having one or all of them removed even if they aren’t causing problems yet. It’s easier to remove wisdom teeth while you are younger because the roots haven’t developed completely and the bone surrounding the teeth isn’t as dense. This lowers the chance of damaging the nerves, bone, or teeth in the surrounding area during removal. Because of this, it’s best for people to have their wisdom teeth evaluated between the ages of 16 and 19 to determine if they should be removed. Your dentist will check for signs of your wisdom teeth erupting and will take x-rays to see the way they are coming in. Discovering potential problems early on allows for the wisdom teeth to be removed while they are easier to extract.

What to Expect During Removal

If your wisdom teeth need to be removed, then an oral surgeon or dentist will perform the extraction. Depending on the way your wisdom teeth are impacted and the complexity of the treatment, the extraction may involve local anesthesia or general sedation. If your wisdom teeth are embedded in the bone, the oral surgeon will make an incision in your gum and remove the teeth in sections to minimize the removal of bone. You are likely to experience tenderness, swelling, and bruising after the surgery; ice packs and pain medication help relieve the discomfort. Your dentist or oral surgeon is likely to prescribe you pain medication, as well as give you instructions for recovery. Usually, you will need to eat only soft foods for a short period following extraction. However, the removal of all four wisdom teeth at one time should not interfere with your ability to properly eat, bite, or talk after your recovery is complete.

Keeping Wisdom Teeth

Some people have enough room in their mouths for the wisdom teeth to come in fully without damaging other teeth. In this case, it may be possible to keep your wisdom teeth. Your dentist should still examine the teeth to make sure they are healthy, functional, and not affecting your bite or causing you pain. They will continue to monitor these teeth and take x-rays during regular checkups to make sure there aren’t changes that indicate a potential problem. 

If your wisdom teeth have come in and don’t need to be removed, then it’s up to you to keep them healthy along with the rest of your teeth. This means focusing on good oral care at home, including proper brushing and flossing, as well as regular visits to see your dentist twice a year. Using a mouthwash, like Oral Essentials Clean and Fresh™ Mouthwash, helps remove bacteria and debris from the back of your mouth where it’s hard to reach. Remember to floss around the back of your wisdom teeth and take extra care to reach those places that are hard to get to.

Wisdom teeth can cause problems in your mouth, but proper oral care helps you avoid unnecessary damage. Brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly keep your teeth and mouth healthy and make you more likely to catch any potential problems early while they are easier to treat.

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