Keeping Your Wisdom Teeth?

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With age comes wisdom. Specifically, wisdom teeth.

Your mouth goes through many changes in your lifetime. One major dental milestone that usually takes place between the ages of 17 and 21 is the appearance of your third molars. Historically, these teeth have been called wisdom teeth because they come through at a more mature age.

When they come through correctly, healthy wisdom teeth can help you chew. It’s normal to feel a little discomfort when your wisdom teeth appear, but if you have pain, see your dentist immediately.

Room to Grow?
Wisdom teeth can lead to problems if there isn’t enough space for them to surface or they come through in the wrong position. If your dentist says your wisdom teeth are impacted, he or she means they are trapped in your jaw or under your gums.

As your wisdom teeth make their way through your gums, your dentist will be monitoring your mouth for signs of the following:

Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the right position can allow food to become trapped. That gives cavity-causing bacteria a place to grow.
Wisdom teeth that haven’t come in properly, which can make it difficult to floss between the wisdom teeth and the molars next to them.
Wisdom teeth that have partially come through can give bacteria a place to enter the gums and create a place for infection to occur. This may also lead to pain, swelling and stiffness in your jaw.
Wisdom teeth that don’t have room to come through are thought by some to crowd or damage neighboring teeth.
A wisdom tooth that is impacted can form a cyst on or near the impacted tooth. This could damage the roots of nearby teeth or destroy the bone that supports your teeth.
Why You Might Need to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Every patient is unique, but in general, wisdom teeth may need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as:

Pain
Infection
Cysts
Tumors
Damage to neighboring teeth
Gum disease
Tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)
Your dentist may also recommend removal of wisdom teeth as part of treatment for braces or other dental care.

Before making any decisions, your dentist will examine your mouth and take an x-ray. Together, you and your dentist can discuss the best course of treatment.

Keeping Your Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth that are not removed should continue to be monitored because the potential for developing problems later on still exists. As people age, they are at greater risk for health problems—and that includes potential problems with their wisdom teeth. Be sure to, floss around your wisdom teeth and visit your dentist regularly. Regular dental visits allow your dentist to evaluate your wisdom teeth and your overall dental health.

Overview

Erupting and impacted wisdom teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth are third molars at the back of the mouth that don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally.

Wisdom teeth are the last adult teeth to come into the mouth (erupt). Most people have four wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth — two on the top, two on the bottom.

Impacted wisdom teeth can result in pain, damage to other teeth and other dental problems. In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth may cause no apparent or immediate problems. But because they’re hard to clean, they may be more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease than other teeth are.

Impacted wisdom teeth that cause pain or other dental complications are usually removed. Some dentists and oral surgeons also recommend removing impacted wisdom teeth that don’t cause symptoms to prevent future problems.

Symptoms

Impacted wisdom teeth don’t always cause symptoms. However, when an impacted wisdom tooth becomes infected, damages other teeth or causes other dental problems, you may experience some of these signs or symptoms:

Red or swollen gums
Tender or bleeding gums
Jaw pain
Swelling around the jaw
Bad breath
An unpleasant taste in your mouth
Difficulty opening your mouth
When to see a doctor
See your dentist if you experience symptoms in the area behind your last molar that may be associated with an impacted wisdom tooth.

Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic
Causes
Wisdom teeth (third molars) become impacted because they don’t have enough room to come in (erupt) or develop normally.

Wisdom teeth usually emerge sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people have wisdom teeth that emerge without any problems and line up with the other teeth behind the second molars. In many cases, however, the mouth is too crowded for third molars to develop normally. These crowded third molars become trapped (impacted).

An impacted wisdom tooth may partially emerge so that some of the crown is visible (partially impacted), or it may never break through the gums (fully impacted). Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:

Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)
Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is «lying down» within the jawbone
Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone
Complications
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several problems in the mouth:

Damage to other teeth. If the wisdom tooth pushes against the second molar, it may damage the second molar or increase the risk of infection in that area. This pressure can also cause problems with crowding of the other teeth or require orthodontic treatment to straighten other teeth.
Cysts. The wisdom tooth develops in a sac within the jawbone. The sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the jawbone, teeth and nerves. Rarely, a tumor — usually noncancerous (benign) — develops. This complication may require removal of tissue and bone.
Decay. Partially impacted wisdom teeth appear to be at higher risk of tooth decay (caries) than other teeth. This probably occurs because wisdom teeth are harder to clean and because food and bacteria get easily trapped between the gum and a partially erupted tooth.
Gum disease. The difficulty cleaning impacted, partially erupted wisdom teeth increases the risk of developing a painful, inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis (per-ih-kor-o-NI-tis) in that area.
Prevention
You can’t keep an impaction from occurring, but keeping regular six-month dental appointments for cleaning and checkups enables your dentist to monitor the growth and emergence of your wisdom teeth. Regularly updated dental X-rays may indicate impacted wisdom teeth before any symptoms develop.