Thousands of people worldwide have their third molars, commonly referred to as “wisdom teeth”, removed every day. This is a common procedure performed by the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons at the Surgical Arts Centre. Often patients are referred for care, but have no real explanation about why the procedure is recommended.
Wisdom teeth are the very last teeth to develop in our mouths. For reasons that are not completely understood, most people in western nations do not have adequate space in the back corners of the mouth for an additional set of molars. As a result, these teeth may be unable to erupt into the mouth into a satisfactory position like the rest of our teeth. This creates two possible categories of problems:
- Impacted wisdom teeth. Teeth that have not erupted normally to the surface.
- Crowded wisdom teeth. Teeth that have erupted to the surface but lack adequate space to properly maintain these teeth.
Complications Arising from Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can produce a host of different problems. Impacted teeth often over time often develop a small communication to the surface, which allows bacteria and debris to get down around the buried tooth. The tooth can then decay under the surface or get infected. The position of the wisdom tooth may also facilitate decay of the root of the tooth in front it leading to the future loss of this tooth as well. Either of these issues will eventually signal the problem with swelling, pain, bad breath or discharge into the mouth.
A second potentially catastrophic problem with impacted wisdom teeth centers on their potential to develop into various types of benign cysts and tumors. This has historically been viewed as a rare problem, but more recent studies show that about half of all impacted wisdom teeth will undergo this change if not removed. When this occurs and the problem progresses unchecked, the cyst or tumor can get very large before it eventually causes pain or other problems, and may require major surgery to remove and reconstruct.
Complications Arising From Erupted But Crowded Wisdom Teeth
Erupted wisdom teeth are often so for back in the corners of the mouth they are very difficult to keep clean. Research has determined that when wisdom teeth are present, this is the first place in the mouth to be colonized by the bacteria that cause gum disease. The same research has shown that patients who keep their wisdom teeth have a greater tendency to develop gum disease that is progressive and affects other teeth.
Erupted wisdom teeth also frequently decay and provide a place for decay causing bacteria to accumulate and multiply. These issues can lead to acute infection, pain, and potential loss of other teeth. Erupted wisdom teeth are also the first place in the mouth we see the development of a phenomenon known as biofilm. This is an accumulation of bacteria and proteins that cause inflammation that contributes to worsening of other illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and others problems.
In the United States, almost all wisdom teeth will require removal at some point in the patient’s lifetime. Since we know this to be true, the next question will be, when should wisdom teeth be removed? Check out our next blog in this series for more information.
Wisdom Teeth Removal at the Surgical Arts Centre
Our oral surgery team has helped hundreds of patients of all ages through the wisdom tooth removal process. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a consultation, please call (406) 549-6600.