Mandibular wisdom teeth are the last teeth to emerge out of all your adult teeth. They begin to develop in your late teens and continue to grow in your early twenties. There are a total of four wisdom teeth, although some people don't have a full set of these. They are also known as third molars.
The trouble with these is that they don't always have enough room to grow. Sometimes they partially emerge creating a painful condition. Lower wisdom teeth tend to be more troublesome than their upper counterparts. If you stick with this post, we will answer questions about wisdom tooth growth and public health, elaborating on the problems that can arise and the corresponding solutions.
Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
Let's start off with this one. Although most adults get wisdom teeth, not everyone does. It seems that as we evolve, our jaws are changing. These days, around 35% of folks don’t have any wisdom teeth at all, whereas 20-25% have one to three of these.
Apparently, genetics is to blame for why some individuals are born without third molars. Other factors that can contribute to these are ethnicity and the environment.
There seems to be a tendency toward lacking wisdom teeth. Research has shown that children are more likely to not develop third molars later on when they are administered local anaesthesia for dental work between the ages of 2 and 6.
This suggests that injections with numbing agents early on in life could help prevent the development of wisdom teeth and therefore spare us potential complications such as damage to nearby teeth.
What Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth (Impacted Third Molars)?
Impacted wisdom teeth are trapped under the gum line and won't grow normally like the other teeth. As a result of this, they will partially erupt.
You see, tooth eruption requires space. When there is not enough room in the mouth, a wisdom tooth may be affected in that it will grow at a wrong angle, for example horizontally.
Moreover, an abnormal position of the third molar could also lead to impacted wisdom teeth. Another cause is obstruction. It can be said that this condition is common. Around 72% of people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.
Because of its wrong position, a partially erupted and impacted wisdom tooth pushes against the other teeth, causing teeth movement, overcrowding, and tooth decay, among other dental issues. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the best way to deal with this is to have it removed. If it has triggered other dental problems along the way, orthodontic treatment will be necessary.
Infected Wisdom Tooth Symptoms
- Jaw pain
- Swollen or red gums
- Bad breath
- Swelling in the jaw area
- Difficulty opening your mouth
Wisdom Tooth in Sinus Cavity Symptoms
Sometimes as they grow, wisdom teeth can push against the sinuses and provoke symptoms like the following:
- Pressure in the sinuses
- Sinus pain
Why Does Wisdom Tooth Need to be Removed?
If your four wisdom teeth show signs of tooth decay or become infected, that’s one reason to have them extracted. If they grow too close to the other molars causing damage to the structure, that’s another. In other words, when these teeth cause dental problems, you should consider getting rid of them.
That being said, if you have asymptomatic third molars, meaning they have developed normally and don't cause any issues, you don't need to have them extracted.
Simple Extraction vs Surgical Extraction of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
A simple extraction is carried out on fully erupted teeth only. The dentist operates dental instruments to loosen the tooth out of its socket and take it out. A local anaesthetic is applied to the gums to numb the area.
On the other hand, surgical extractions are more complex. They are performed for partially erupted or impacted teeth. The dentist makes an incision into the gums in order to get access to the tooth in question. Sometimes they go as far as to cut part of the bone. The impacted wisdom teeth may have to be slashed into pieces to facilitate the extraction process.
Is Wisdom Tooth Extraction Painful?
Generally, you shouldn't feel pain. Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is part of oral and maxillofacial surgery. It involves the use of local anaesthesia which numbs the area, keeping the patient from experiencing any pain. If you do feel pain during the procedure, you should speak up. Your dentist will give your more anaesthetic as necessary.
Otherwise, you should only feel slight pressure as the specialist is moving the tooth back and forth in an attempt to widen the tooth socket.
Now, it's worth noting there are patients who do not respond to the medication as expected and may not become completely numb, or the effects of the agent may wear off too soon - before the tooth has been removed.
If you are aware that you have such a problem, let your dentist or oral surgeon know ahead of time so they can consider other desensitisation methods for your wisdom tooth removal. Depending on the case, some oral surgeons resort to general anaesthesia.
Complications Arising from Wisdom Teeth Removal
Most wisdom teeth will heal just fine after extraction but sometimes there can be complications such as:
- Slow healing of the soft tissue
- Pain and swelling
- Excessive bleeding
- Bad smell
- Dry socket (a dry socket is when no blood clot forms in the area, leaving the wound incapable of healing)
- Inability to open your mouth wide
Needless to say, there are certain things you can do to minimise your risk of complications. For instance, you should stay on top of your oral hygiene. By keeping your mouth clean in those critical days following your surgery, you will reduce the probability of infection. Use an antiseptic mouthwash.
You should also blend your food so that you don't need to chew. If necessary, apply gauze to the treatment site to stop bleeding. Many dentists will close the gums with a suture to ensure the wound heals faster without bleeding too much.
What Happens If You Don't Remove Wisdom Teeth?
If your wisdom teeth have come in properly and parallel to the jaw, they are unlikely to cause any trouble. Thus, there will be no complications if you don’t have your wisdom teeth removed. But if they are impacted, they can move your permanent structures out of place, causing chips and cracks on the surface. This will also lead to decay.
Is It Good to Remove Wisdom Teeth?
It depends on the case. If your wisdom teeth don’t cause any problems, there are no benefits of removing them. The same does not apply if you have impacted wisdom teeth that cause severe pain and inflammation, or if they have grown so close to the adjacent teeth that they create the opportunity for cavities, tooth decay, and other dental health problems. In that case, having them taken out will be advised.
What Happens If You Wait Too Long to Get Wisdom Teeth Out?
Failing to take care of your wisdom tooth in time may lead to serious oral infections. People with other health problems such as lower immunity might actually suffer from complications as a result of these infections.
Additionally, you could get swollen lymph nodes, jaw spasms, and facial swelling. Even though your dentist will suggest some form of treatment, the problem will only resolve with oral and maxillofacial surgery, a.k.a wisdom teeth removal.
Can Wisdom Teeth Fall Out Naturally Without the Need for Wisdom Teeth Removal?
The wisdom teeth are the same as our permanent teeth, meaning they stay in place with the help of the jawbone. Therefore, it is unlikely that they fall out naturally without any pressure being applied to them.
However, if you have severe periodontitis (gum disease) and you suffer from bone loss as a result of that, your third molar teeth may loosen and even fall out at a certain time. Of course, you need to keep in mind that this would happen to the other teeth as well and it’s a scenario you want to avoid.