Have you ever thought that one of the most widespread diseases in the world is actually the most neglected? Yes, we are talking about tooth decay - this small hole in the tooth that we often ignore until we have time, enough money, and the courage to see the dentist. However, without prompt attention, tooth decay can cause serious problems.
You may get decay on any of your teeth. And yes, your wisdom teeth may also decay. As a matter of fact, your third molars are much more prone to cavities than the rest of the teeth. The issue is especially prevalent when it comes to impacted wisdom teeth or those molars that cannot come out properly.
Wisdom teeth, particularly impacted wisdom teeth, should be extracted by oral and maxillofacial surgeons with sufficient knowledge and experience. Such specialists can handle more complex cases and prevent or manage issues that may arise after wisdom teeth surgery.
Feel free to contact us if you need wisdom tooth decay treatment and our dentists will recommend the best course of action for your particular case.
Here, we will discuss what causes wisdom tooth decay and why these teeth are at greater risk of being problematic.
Causes of tooth decay: Why are wisdom teeth more prone to decay?
The main culprit for developing tooth decay or cavity is bacteria: the thin, sticky coating that we all have in our mouths. When you eat food, these bacteria eat some of it too, and they particularly love things like sugar. Foods like sweets, cakes, and chocolate interact with bacteria, creating acid. This acid is then released onto the surface of your teeth, causing them to deteriorate. And the more sugar you eat, the more acid the bacteria make and the weaker your teeth become. Over time, this can eventually lead to holes or decay in your teeth.
These last adult teeth to emerge can cause many dental problems, including cavities. Why is that? Here are some reasons.
Wisdom teeth grow in areas that are hard to reach
Third molars or wisdom teeth are the last teeth that come in into your mouth. You normally should have four wisdom teeth located in the very back areas in the lower and upper jaw. This makes them much more difficult to clean. As a result, wisdom teeth, especially the lower ones, build plaque and calculus at a faster rate than your other teeth.
Even when you practice meticulous oral hygiene, you may not be able to clean your final set of teeth adequately. That is why they often develop decay soon after their breakthrough. Furthermore, the accumulation of food debris and plaque around healthy or decaying wisdom teeth leads to an increased risk of developing cavities in the neighbouring teeth.
They often grow in the wrong direction or do not come in all the way
Wisdom teeth frequently become impacted. This is when the tooth has failed to erupt because there is not enough room in the mouth. In such cases, the third molar is usually obstructed by another tooth or the wisdom tooth grows in such a way that it is hard to enter the mouth normally. The lower wisdom tooth is normally more likely to be impacted than the upper wisdom tooth.
When wisdom teeth do not fully emerge, an opening is created around the tooth, allowing bacteria to enter. The area may become a food or plaque trap, and eventually cause tooth decay on the partially erupted tooth or the tooth in front of it.
In addition to the cavity, the impacted wisdom tooth can cause a lot of dental problems including pain in the upper or lower jaw, gum disease, pericoronitis (inflammation of the soft tissue), and others. In the majority of cases, partially erupted wisdom teeth require removal.
If you want to learn more about this you can read our article on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of impacted wisdom teeth.
How do you know you have wisdom tooth decay?
Tooth decay usually occurs in five stages, with a deterioration worsening as the stages progress. Here are all the phases of the disease and the symptoms you may experience during each one.
The first sign that you may be developing dental decay is the occurrence of a white spot on your tooth. However, it is not always evident and may be difficult to discern with the naked eye.
During this stage, the white spot usually begins to turn brown. Your teeth may become sensitive to cold and hot liquids. You may also experience sharp discomfort when eating sugary foods.
You are more likely to have extreme tooth sensitivity to cold and hot drinks during this phase. Furthermore, you may have an unpleasant taste and bad breath in your mouth as a result of the deterioration and growth of cavities.
This is a more advanced stage of the disease that is more likely to cause pain, discomfort, and swelling around the affected wisdom tooth.
Formation of wisdom tooth abscess
Wisdom tooth abscess is a severe dental problem which causes intense toothache, swelling, and pain in your gums. The pain and swelling may also spread to your face and jaw. The condition typically requires immediate medical attention.
Seeking prompt treatment for wisdom tooth decay should be a priority to help prevent further damage.
What to do if you have a wisdom tooth cavity?
Obviously, the first thing you should do if you suspect that your wisdom tooth is decaying is to book an appointment with your dentist. He or she will assess the health and position of your third molars. Your dentist will also advise you whether to keep or remove them based on their eruption position, your ability to maintain them clean, and the degree of the decay. However, keep in mind that in the majority of cases, dental specialists recommend wisdom tooth removal surgery to prevent further complications.
What are the treatment options for wisdom tooth decay?
Wisdom tooth extraction
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, most dentists recommend extraction of the problematic third molars, particularly when it comes to impacted wisdom teeth. When these teeth are left in the mouth, they frequently cause more harm than good.
Even if your wisdom teeth do come in all the way, they are very far back of the mouth, and you can really have a hard time keeping them clean. And, while your dentist may be able to fill your tooth, it is quite likely that it may decay again in the future.
In fact, many dental professionals recommend the removal of third molars at a younger age, before they have completely formed. Having your wisdom teeth extracted earlier has several advantages. First, the procedure is easier. Second, the vast majority of people will need to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point anyway. Third, the early extraction minimizes the risk of post-surgical complications and allows for the best overall healing.
Although wisdom tooth extraction is usually the preferred treatment option, in some cases, your dental provider may be able to save the affected tooth by filling its hole. It is a dental procedure where the dentist removes the damaged areas of the tooth and then fills the space with an artificial substance (filling material).
However, such treatment is possible only if you have mild decay, your tooth is fully erupted and is in a correct position. In more severe cases or if you have a cavity on your impacted wisdom tooth, then your dentists will probably recommend extraction.
Frequently asked questions
Is it common for wisdom teeth to decay?
Yes. It usually happens because of the location of the wisdom teeth. Because they're at the back of the mouth, cleaning them properly is significantly more difficult. Furthermore, wisdom teeth are often unable to erupt properly because there is insufficient space in the mouth. Thus, they can easily trap food and bacteria, making them more prone to cavities.
What happens if wisdom teeth decay?
You may feel pain and discomfort during the early stages of tooth decay. If the problem is not treated, it can cause more severe complications such as jaw and gum pain as well as swollen infection of the gums.
How do you fix wisdom teeth decay?
Your dental professional will recommend dental fillings or wisdom tooth extraction based on the severity of tooth decay. In general, decayed teeth can be repaired through dental fillings or root canal therapy. However, most dentists will recommend surgical removal when it comes to wisdom teeth.
What happens if rotten teeth are left unattended?
Leaving rotten teeth without attention can negatively affect both your oral health and your overall body. It can cause gum disease, infections and intense pain. Furthermore, some experts claim that when teeth rot collects in the mouth, it might cause blood poisoning since it is swallowed along with salvia.
Is wisdom tooth surgery high risk?
Wisdom teeth removal is a relatively safe procedure that is usually performed under local anaesthesia. However, there are some complications you may experience after this surgery, including:
- Damage to the surrounding teeth or nerves.
- Socket infection. It is usually caused by trapped food particles and bacteria.
- Dry socket. It occurs when a blood clot at the removal site dislodges or fails to form at all.
Such complications are more likely to arise after the surgical removal of an impacted wisdom tooth.
How do you know if your wisdom teeth are infected?
If you have a wisdom tooth infection, you may experience pain around the affected tooth, swelling of the gum tissue, bad breath, and others. Sometimes the gum infection can cause severe pain which spreads to the face and jaw, fever and swollen lymph nodes. The condition requires immediate medical help.