Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt and can require removal for a variety of reasons, including painful, potentially serious oral health issues. However, not all patients require wisdom teeth removal. Here is a look at problems warranting removal of these molars.

Cleaning Difficulty

The location of wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth can make them difficult to clean even if they erupt correctly. When wisdom teeth erupt only partially, they can be highly prone to collecting food bits and bacteria. This buildup may not respond to brushing, and oral health problems may develop over time. In fact, wisdom teeth may start developing decay that can spread to other teeth. Gum disease, another common outcome of oral bacterial overgrowth, can also begin around the wisdom teeth and may eventually affect the gums in general. A water cleaning instrument may be effective for keeping wisdom teeth clean in some cases, but it may be impractical when extraction can eliminate the problem altogether.

Improper Eruption or Impaction

In many patients, wisdom teeth erupt incompletely or incorrectly. Either of these situations can cause serious oral health problems if not addressed. When wisdom teeth remain inside the gums, they may be unnoticeable for some patients but problematic in others. If gum inflammation, swelling and pain develops, patients should have their retained wisdom teeth removed.

Impacted wisdom teeth can face forward, backwards or sideways, placing adjacent teeth and tissues at risk of damage and complicating cleaning. If a wisdom tooth places pressure on nearby nerves, serious pain may result. Wisdom teeth that push forward may shift or break neighboring molars, causing pain and raising risks of infection. Because so many problems are linked to impacted wisdom teeth, extraction may be a good idea in these cases even if discomfort is not currently present.

Active Decay or Infection

Cavities and infections are two major risks of leaving wisdom teeth in the mouth. If minor cavities are found in wisdom teeth, timely repair with fillings may make removal unnecessary. However, infected teeth can be more serious. While root canal treatment can be performed to save wisdom teeth, infections are likely to reappear in wisdom teeth after developing once. This means that extraction is usually the preferred approach. Other infections, including pericoronitis, an infection involving gum tissue overhanging a wisdom tooth, are also likely to re-occur and can warrant extraction of these molars.

When wisdom teeth erupt during late adolescence or early adulthood, they may not require removal as long as they do not cause problems. An exam should always be performed to assess the condition of these molars and any risks they present. In some cases, extraction of wisdom teeth may be recommended before they erupt because of how they are situated. If your wisdom teeth are problematic, having them extracted now may save you discomfort, time and money in the long term. With local anesthesia, nitrous oxide and other sedation options, wisdom teeth removal offers comfort during the procedure as well as afterwards.