Wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned. Often, however, the jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate wisdom teeth and they can become impacted (unable to come in or misaligned). Wisdom teeth that grow sideways or emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone cause irritation to the gums, bone and teeth around them. In addition, due to their location in the back corners of the mouth, inadequate cleaning can also lead to irritation and inflammation of the surrounding tissue.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is generally recommended when:
- Wisdom teeth only partially erupt. This leaves an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. Pain, swelling, jaw stiffness and general illness can result.
- There is a chance that poorly aligned wisdom teeth will damage adjacent teeth.
- A cyst (fluid-filled sac) forms, destroying surrounding structures such as bone or tooth roots.
- Cavities infect the tooth
- Severe gum disease is present and can be alleviated by wisdom tooth removal
Patients should ask about the health and positioning of their wisdom teeth. A recommendation for removal may be made or patients may be referred to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.