Getting your wisdom teeth taken out is an expected procedure for many young adults, with an estimated 10 million wisdom teeth removed from 5 million people each year. But many of these surgeries may not be necessary. Here at Pacific Dental Care, we want to make sure you know all the facts before you decide whether or not to have your wisdom teeth removed.

What are wisdom teeth?

Typically coming in during your late teens or early twenties, wisdom teeth are your third and final set of molars. When properly aligned and healthy, these teeth can be a valuable addition to your mouth, but more often than not, they enter your mouth misaligned. That could mean they come in horizontally, angled inward or outward, or tilted toward or away from your second molars. Any of these alignment issues can damage or crowd adjacent teeth, your jawbone, or your nerves in general.

Another potential problem with wisdom teeth is when they come in impacted or enclosed within the jawbone or soft tissue in a way that they only partially break through your gum line. This partial eruption creates an avenue for bacteria to enter into your teeth and cause an infection, and since these teeth become hard to reach and clean, this increases your likelihood of future tooth decay tremendously.

When should you have your wisdom teeth removed?

Dentists choose to remove your wisdom teeth when they are causing problems, or when X-rays show that they may cause problems down the line. They look at your age, the position of your teeth, and the shape of your mouth to project any potential issues. Many dentists remove molars that are seemingly healthy now because there’s a chance of future problems and because the longer you wait, the more difficult teeth get to remove. So even though your wisdom teeth may not be hurting now, removal could be the right option.

Along with the alignment and impaction problems listed above, other symptoms that may lead to wisdom teeth removal include:

  • Jaw damage: Sometimes cysts will form around a new group of wisdom teeth, and if these issues aren’t treated, they can damage nerves and hollow out your jaw.
  • Gum inflammation: Tissue around the wisdom teeth may become sensitive and swell, which could be painful and make the area harder to clean.
  • Sinus issues: Sinus pain, pressure, and congestion can all arise from problems stemming from your wisdom teeth.
  • Cavities: Gum swelling around the wisdom teeth may create pockets between teeth that are difficult to clean and help cavities form and bacteria grow.

With regular checkups, your dental professional will know whether or not you should have your wisdom teeth removed. So make sure to keep to the schedule of a routine check-up every six months. And if you have any questions about your wisdom teeth, don’t hesitate to call Pacific Dental Care and ask.