Get Wise About Wisdom Teeth
Don’t wait for pain to become the leading factor in wisdom teeth removal. It’s a misconception that as long as people aren’t feeling discomfort, wisdom teeth won’t cause any problems. Patients need to have them removed for a variety of reasons.
Wisdom teeth are a set of large molars at the very back of the mouth. Anthropologists believe our early ancestors developed them to help chew raw foods. But as humans developed an agriculturalist lifestyle our food has become softer and we don’t really need that many teeth to chew. As a result, human jawbones have become smaller. And this is where some of the main complications can arise.
What Can Go wrong?
When wisdom teeth erupt (break through the gum), usually in early adulthood, they are often not in the correct position. This can cause misalignment of the other teeth. And if a person has already had orthodontic treatment the eruption of wisdom teeth can bring it all undone. It’s something dentists need to be aware of in long-term dental planning for patients.
The other key problem with wisdom teeth is they often partially erupt, causing food to get trapped under the gum. This can lead to infection, which is where the pain begins for a lot of people. A partially erupted tooth can also lead to food becoming trapped next to the tooth beside the wisdom tooth, which can result in decay that requires repair or extraction of that tooth too.
Getting to Wisdom Teeth
Because wisdom teeth are at the very back of the jawbone they are quite difficult for people to see and keep clean. A dentist is best placed to be able to adequately see these teeth with mirrors and can easily assess if they mal-positioned or causing problems. An X-ray can identify any decay in surrounding teeth and can also give a picture of where the teeth are sitting before they erupt. It’s important not to forget about these teeth because they do require removal in some cases. There is a small percentage of the population who are lucky and their wisdom teeth come through nicely erupted and very well aligned. But most of us aren’t that lucky, so it pays for dentists to keep an eye on them.
In certain cases removal is quite simple and patients might have their wisdom teeth removed at their dentist’s local surgery, without the need for hospitalisation.
These molars can be removed one at a time. Or some people might only need one of two removed in their lifetime. It’s not a matter of waiting to see if all four are going to come through before the decision to remove needs to be made. Dentists need to keep an eye on the teeth individually as well as collectively to determine the best course of action.
So, until evolution catches up with our modern diets and smaller jawbones, it’s important for patients and dentists to not forget about wisdom teeth.