Wisdom teeth are the last molars to grow at the very back of the mouth, which commonly develops when you are around 17 to 25.
However, because wisdom teeth grow during a relatively late stage of our lives, it’s common that there is not enough room for the tooth to grow naturally, leading to various health issues.
Here, we will learn all the ins and outs about wisdom teeth, possible symptoms, and what can you expect during and after treatments.
Why Wisdom Teeth Growth Are Often Problematic?
While there are still ongoing debates surrounding the subject, the primary cause of improper wisdom teeth growth is the fact that humans sizes (including our jaw bones) have gotten smaller over time, so there’s less space. There are several possible reasons for this—the topic of the debates—, but the fact is that for a lot of people, there is simply not enough space to accommodate the four wisdom teeth. Most of us have our jaws stopped growing by the time we are 18, but wisdom teeth usually start to develop when we are between 17 and 25, with the average age of 19.5.
53% of people experienced at least one wisdom tooth growth, and men are more likely to develop wisdom teeth. However, there are many cases when the wisdom teeth don’t erupt above your gums and so are not visible to the naked eye (you will need to take an X-ray).
The thing is, even when a wisdom tooth growth is not visible—we call this “impacted wisdom tooth—-, it can still cause various pain and oral health issues. In fact, it can be worse than visible wisdom teeth.
What Are The Problems Associated With Wisdom Teeth?
Problems caused by wisdom teeth can vary dramatically from person to person and will vary when you have a visible (but unnatural) growth or when it’s completely not visible.
In general, however, all pains and health problems associated with wisdom teeth growth are caused by the lack of space, so that they don’t have enough room to grow normally.
When some of the wisdom tooth’s crown is visible, we call the tooth “partially impacted”. When the tooth is completely invisible under the gums, we call it “fully impacted’. The pain and other symptoms (as we’ll discuss below) are caused by:
- Abnormal growth at an angle toward the adjacent tooth, pushing the second molar
- Abnormal growth toward the back of the mouth
- The wisdom tooth does not erupt above the gums and grow at an angle to the adjacent teeth
- Grow vertically (normally) but stay trapped under the gums and within the jawbone
The common symptoms caused by these abnormal growths are:
- Swollen, inflamed gums, often accompanied by tenderness and bleeding
- Pain around the back of the mouth (behind the molars), the pain will gradually increase with the wisdom tooth’s growth
- Jaw pain, accompanied by swelling, and can extend to cause headache
- Bad breath when gum inflammation or infection occurs—among other causes—
- Unpleasant, metal taste in your mouth
- Difficulty opening your mouth and maintaining proper bite
Also, impacted (full and partial) wisdom teeth can cause several oral complications:
- Wisdom teeth that are partially impacted have increased risks of decays. The partially impacted wisdom tooth is harder to clean, and plaque buildup can easily occur
- If the wisdom tooth is fully impacted, it can develop a sac within the jawbone, which can form cysts and—rarely— noncancerous tumor.
- Various gum diseases, including pericoronitis—where the partially erupted gum is infected by bacteria. Gum inflammation and infections can be really painful.
- Damage to the adjacent teeth, especially when the wisdom tooth’s growth is pushing the second molar. It can physically damage the adjacent tooth, or cause infection. Also, the pressure might cause misalignment of other teeth, which will require further treatment.
How Can I Prevent Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Unfortunately, we can’t fully prevent wisdom teeth growth and impaction.
However, having regular dental appointments— at least once every six months— can allow your dentist to recognize wisdom teeth growth, and can take the necessary treatments before any symptoms and damages occur.
Treatments For Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If symptoms of dental issues (as discussed above) occur due to wisdom teeth growth, extraction (and if necessary, surgery) is generally the preferred option.
If the wisdom tooth is fully impacted, a surgery to open up the gum to allow the extraction is necessary, but generally, this will be an outpatient procedure that will last around 60 minutes (might be less).
Depending on your condition, the surgical operation can be more complex and might require more time. However, the success rate is pretty high with very small chances of complications.
It is worth noting that there’s the probability of your impacted wisdom teeth are not causing any symptoms—and there are wisdom teeth that can grow normally—. In this case, the dentist might suggest to leave it alone, but there’s also the option to extract the tooth anyways to prevent future problems.
If you do decide to skip extraction, maintain a regular dental check-up schedule, and have your wisdom teeth monitored for any potential symptoms.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction Recovery
The recovery period after a wisdom tooth surgery can take up to two week. This will depend on how many wisdom teeth are extracted during the operation, as well as other individual conditions.
Mild pain, bleeding and swelling after the operation are common, and most people will fully recover from these within three or four days. If the tooth is fully impacted, it could take a full week or more.
However, the wound on the gums after the surgery might not be completely healed for months. Risk of infections can still develop weeks after surgery, so call your dentist in Markham immediately if you experience any of these complications:
- Excessive pain or bleeding that occur after a week of the surgery
- Trouble breathing and/or swallowing
- Fever, common sign of infection
- Swelling that gets worse after a week
- Numbness on the area of surgery, jaw, or cheek
- Nosebleed or pus coming out of your nose
Impacted wisdom teeth are serious periodontal health issue that can cause various symptoms and complications. It is wise to maintain regular visits to the dentist so that they can monitor wisdom teeth development early and plan possible treatments if necessary.