Why do we have wisdom teeth?
Most people get their wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25. These teeth, which are also called the third molars, were originally necessary to cope with our ancestor’s diet as it included much coarser and rougher food requiring more chewing power. Today’s modern diets mean there isn’t such a need for wisdom teeth, and our jaws are gradually evolving to become smaller, leaving less space for wisdom teeth to fully erupt.
Problems caused by wisdom teeth
A common problem is to have an impacted wisdom tooth, and it’s important to have this extracted due to the risk of localized disease, even if you don’t yet have any unpleasant symptoms such as pain or infection. If you visit your dentist regularly then it’s likely they’ll be keeping an eye on your wisdom teeth, and will be making sure they don’t present any problems, but sometimes early signs can go unnoticed.
A typical example is the development of cysts which can occasionally occur as a side-effect of having impacted teeth. These are small spaces within the jawbone which become filled with fluid, and they can develop in both the upper and lower jaw. If the cyst becomes infected then a patient is likely to experience swelling and pain. The problem is these cysts can grow and cause significant destruction to the jawbone as well as to the surrounding teeth while the patient feels relatively few symptoms.
As the cyst grows it can push the impacted tooth deeper into the jawbone. This can mean a previously straightforward surgical procedure to extract the tooth becomes much more complex and invasive, and of course considerably more expensive. If the cyst has caused significant damage to the jawbone then it may be necessary to have a bone graft. Luckily cysts are less common than infections, but their potential for destruction is far more substantial.
Listen to your dentist
If you have been told you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted then it’s worth taking your dentists advice seriously, as having the treatment sooner rather than later will obviously decrease your risk of developing any additional problems such as infections or cysts.
Is early extraction wise?
Some dentists even advocate taking out people’s wisdom teeth while they are still teenagers. If someone has a small jaw or is likely to have problems with their wisdom teeth later on in life, then this may be a sensible option. The reason for this is because bone gradually hardens as we get older, potentially making extraction more difficult and prolonging the healing time.