Although adults can have up to 32 permanent teeth, if you look into the mouth of the average person, you’ll most likely only count 28 teeth. That’s because many people have their third and final set of molars, known as the wisdom teeth, taken out.
Adults can have up to four wisdom teeth (so called because they don’t start coming into until many people are in their late teens or early 20s), two on the top and two on the bottom.
Most people today don’t have the room in their mouths to let the wisdom teeth fully erupt and take their place in the mouth. Instead, impacted wisdom teeth are fairly common. When a tooth is impacted, it doesn’t have room to fully break through the gum line. Part of the tooth might emerge through the gum or the entire tooth might stay stuck in the jaw, as the American Dental Association explains.
Impacted wisdom teeth are more common than you might think — about 90 percent of people have at least one, according to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause a few problems in the mouth if they aren’t removed. While your wisdom teeth might not be causing your discomfort now, it can be worth talking to a dental professional to learn more about the best treatment options for your wisdom teeth.
Knowing the common problems impacted wisdom teeth cause can also help you identify any issues with your third molars.
1. Keeping the Teeth Clean Becomes More Challenging
Even if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing you discomfort and don’t really have any signs or symptoms of being impacted, they can still present a challenge to you. If only a small part of a wisdom tooth has successfully erupted through the gumline, it can be difficult to keep the tooth clean.
Since the teeth are in the back of the mouth, it can be a challenge to reach them with a toothbrush and toothpaste while you brush. Flossing between a partially erupted wisdom tooth and a second molar can also be tricky.
If you do have partly erupted wisdom teeth, your dental hygienist can show you how to brush the teeth and floss in between to keep them as clean as possible and reduce your risk of developing other problems as a result of the impacted tooth or teeth.
2. Damage to Neighboring Teeth
Sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth don’t grow straight up and down like healthy teeth. They might tilt forward, growing towards the second molars. Some impacted wisdom teeth end up completely horizontal, so they’re in the jawbone at a 90-degree angle to the other teeth.
A tilted or perpendicular wisdom tooth can end up bumping into the other teeth in the mouth, causing damage to the roots of neighboring teeth and may create a need for root canal or extraction. Sometimes, an impacted wisdom tooth can shift the other teeth out of alignment.
Damage to nearby teeth can put those teeth at an increased risk for decay or infection or cause a person to need orthodontic treatment to straighten out the teeth.
3. Increased Risk of Tooth Decay
Often, impacted wisdom teeth have a higher risk of tooth decay or developing cavities than other teeth in the mouth. In part, that could be because it is more difficult to clean impacted wisdom teeth. It could also be due to the fact that the impaction makes it easier for food to get trapped in the gums around the tooth, creating a hospitable environment for the bacteria that cause cavities and decay.
4. Increased Risk of Pericoronitis
Impacted wisdom teeth can increase your risk of developing a type of infection known as pericoronitis. Pericoronitis often occurs when the tooth has broken through the gums partway but can also occur when the impacted tooth remains below the gum line.
When a person has pericoronitis, the gum tissue near the impacted tooth becomes inflamed and swollen. It can be difficult to bite down or close the mouth because the gum tissue is so swollen. Because there’s typically a lot of bacteria near the inflamed gum, people with pericoronitis might notice that they have a bad taste in their mouth or that their breath smells unpleasant.
Often, pericoronitis is treated by deep cleaning the gum tissue around the impacted tooth. Antibiotics can also be prescribed to kill the bacteria. A dental professional will usually recommend removing the impacted tooth to reduce the risk of future infection.
5. Increased Risk of Cysts
A cyst is a sac of fluid that can develop around an impacted wisdom tooth. Without treatment, a cyst can grow, causing damage to the roots of neighboring teeth and to the jawbone. If the cyst developed around a wisdom tooth, the tooth will usually be removed as well.
Talk to Your Dental Team About Your Wisdom Teeth
Should you remove your wisdom teeth? It all depends. If your wisdom teeth are impacted and could potentially cause one or more problems, your dentist will likely recommend removal.
Along with preventative care and general dentistry procedures such as tooth cavity fillings in St. Petersburg, Fl., Klement Family Dental also offers wisdom teeth removal. If you think your wisdom teeth are impacted or are experiencing any discomfort in the back of your mouth, contact us today for an appointment. We offer convenient appointment times, six days a week, both before and after work or school. We’ll help you get to the bottom of your discomfort and recommend a treatment plan that will work best for you.