When making decisions about your dental health, or that of your child’s or teen’s, it’s important to take the time to consider your options. Wisdom teeth removal is one area of dental health that is surrounded by a lot of myth and confusion.
Despite the stories, 5 million people in the United States have some or all of their wisdom teeth removed every year. This just goes to show how important the procedure can be for your dental health.
If you are feeling uncertain about wisdom teeth removal for you or your child, your Pharr area dentists at Heroes Dental are ready to help. We can check to see if early removal is right for you.
What Are Molars?
Wisdom teeth are the third molars that grow in after childhood.
Molar teeth are flat and grow at the back of your mouth. If they grow in correctly, they assist with chewing. Their rounded shape makes molars great for grinding food into swallowable pieces while the front teeth are used to biting and tearing. Molars are meant to sustain a great amount of force, so each tooth is anchored to the jaw bone with roots.
Most adults have 12 molars, six in the top jaw and six in the lower.
Molars come in three types: first, second, and third. First molars erupt around age six and are the first to appear. Second molars appear around age 12, and third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, grow in between the ages of 17 and 21.
Third molars are considered to be vestiges from a time when humans had bigger mouths with room for more teeth. They were useful in eating the especially course foods common to our ancient diets.
What Can Go Wrong During the Growing Process?
If molars grow in incorrectly, they can cause a lot of problems for your teeth. According to one study, only 15 percent of people have no problems while their wisdom teeth erupt.
Wisdom teeth erupt at a different age for everyone, but for most people, they erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. The process can be uncomfortable even if your wisdom teeth are healthy and growing properly. This is largely because the size of our jaws have evolved over time, while the number of wisdom teeth we grow has not. This can lead to a wide range of problems.
Situations in which wisdom teeth may need to be removed include but are not limited to the following issues:
- Impacted Teeth – If your wisdom teeth are unable to grow in to begin with, they are called “impacted.” This means they are trapped within your jaw, where they can cause infections and cysts. Infections and cysts can then further damage your other teeth, roots, and jaw bone.
- Partially-Erupted Teeth – Partially erupted wisdom teeth can cause infections, as well. When these molars don’t grow in completely, they create a hard-to-reach area that can gather bacteria, which can then lead to infections and gum disease.
- Crowded Teeth – A common problem that arises during the eruption process is crowding. If wisdom teeth are crowded into your mouth with too little space, they can damage themselves and nearby teeth. This can also make it incredibly difficult to fully clean and floss affected teeth.
If you or your child are experiencing any pain, swelling, or bleeding around your wisdom teeth, see your family dentist immediately.
What Signs Should I Watch For?
While it is not always clear whether or not wisdom teeth will need to be removed, there are a few warning signs you should be aware of. Wisdom teeth that are growing in incorrectly can cause any of the following:
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Bad breath
- Swelling of the jaw or gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Difficulty chewing or opening your mouth
If you or your teen experiences any of the symptoms listed above, ask your dentist whether or not wisdom tooth removal may be right for you.
In most cases, there are no obvious signs that these molars need removal. You will generally need the assistance of your dentist to spot any potential problems. Because of this, even if you haven’t experienced any adverse symptoms, you may still need your molars removed.
What Other Problems Can Lead to Wisdom Teeth Removal?
There are some situations that can still lead to your wisdom teeth needing to be removed that aren’t related to the eruption process. These situations may arise before your wisdom teeth grow in or after:
- Gum disease — As molars grow in, they may create a flap of gum that can retain bacteria, causing gums to become inflamed. This can develop into gum disease if left untreated.
- Pain and irritation — If you are experiencing pain and irritation near your wisdom teeth, your dentist may determine that they need to be removed.
- Difficulty eating — Molars can be difficult to clean, which can lead to a buildup of debris between the gum and tooth surface. This can cause serious discomfort and difficulties when eating.
- Cysts — Sacs near wisdom teeth may become full of fluid. This is called a cyst and can destroy teeth, bones, and roots if left untreated.
- Tumors — Tumors in the area near your wisdom teeth may lead your dentist to remove your molars.
- Extensive tooth decay — If your molars have decayed significantly, your dentist may advise you to have them removed.
- Repeat infections — If you have repeat infections in the area near your molars, removing your wisdom teeth may be a solution.
- Crooked teeth — Crooked wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to shift or be damaged.
- Sinus issues — On occasion, molars growing in the upper jaw can cause sinus issues when they put pressure on the sinuses.
- Cavities — Because wisdom teeth and molars are hard to reach, they are very susceptible to cavities.
This list is not exhaustive; your dentist may recommend you remove your wisdom teeth for other reasons. For instance, removing wisdom teeth at a younger age can help the healing process progress more quickly because the roots and bone have not yet fully formed.
It is always best to check with your Pharr family dentist if you have any questions.
Signs You May Not Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Generally speaking, removing teeth should be avoided if possible because it opens up the possibility of shifting teeth.
Your wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they are healthy and in a good position after growing in completely. The teeth should align correctly to allow biting with their opposing teeth and should be positioned in such a way that they can be cleaned as a part of a normal dental hygiene regimen.
If your wisdom teeth aren’t causing you any trouble, they may not need to be removed. However, some issues that lead to molar removal can’t be detected without the assistance of a dentist, so a lack of pain isn’t a guarantee that you will be able to keep your molars.
It is worth noting that it is normal to experience some discomfort while your wisdom teeth erupt, but if you start feeling pain frequently, consult with your dentist.
What to Expect If You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
If you and your dentist have decided you need your molars removed, it’s normal to feel nervous. Having an idea of the process awaiting you can help you remain calm when the time comes.
If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to check with your dentist. You can find a basic overview of the steps taken during molar extraction below:
- Your dentist will apply local anesthetic or general anesthetic to the area around your wisdom tooth.
- The dentist will cut away gum and bone tissue covering the tooth.
- The tooth will be grasped with forceps.
- The tooth is rocked back and forth to loosen it.
- If necessary, the tooth will be cut into smaller pieces for removal.
- Gauze is packed into the socket to assist the blood clotting process.
- The dentist may place a sedative dressing to protect the socket if the clot breaks loose.
- Dissolvable stitches will be applied if needed.
What Your Dentist Needs to Know
Before your tooth is extracted, there is some information your dentist will need to know.
While molar extraction is a generally safe procedure, some conditions can make it more dangerous.
Be sure to let your dentist know if you have any conditions that put you at a high risk of developing severe infections:
- Congenital heart defects
- Liver disease
- Damaged heart valves
- Man-made heart valves
- Artificial joints
- Bacterial endocarditis
Your Pharr Dentist Are Ready to Serve You at Heroes Dental
Your teeth are a key part of your everyday life and their health should always be maintained. Regular visits to the dentist can help you make sure you’re on the right track.
If your wisdom teeth have been bothering you or a loved one for some time, the team at Heroes Dental can help you find relief.