Wisdom Teeth Challenges vs. Advantages
The dental community knows more than ever before about the consequences of not extracting impacted wisdom teeth. If impacted wisdom teeth are not extracted, the following may occur:
Teeth Shifting: Impacted wisdom teeth may shift surrounding teeth, causing bite irregularities and pain.
Bone Loss and Jaw Expansion: Impacted wisdom teeth may play a role in bone loss and expansion of the jaw.
Congestion: Wisdom teeth may contribute to sinus congestion and headaches.
Cysts and Tumors: Impacted wisdom teeth may be a factor in the development of bone destroying tumors or cysts, including cyst formation in the surrounding gum tissue.
Gum Tissue Irritation: Gum tissue surrounding impacted wisdom teeth tends to be more susceptible to gum irritation. If wisdom teeth do not fully erupt and become crooked, it may become difficult to adequately clean the gums.
Periodontal Pockets, Cavities and Bone Loss: Difficulty cleaning gums makes it easy for debris to be lodged, creating the perfect setting for bacteria. The resulting bacteria may produce periodontal pockets, create cavities and lead to bone loss.
Changes in Orthodontia and Dentures: For children, wisdom teeth may adversely affect the results of orthodontia. For the elderly, wisdom teeth may undermine the functionality of dentures.
Dry socket is caused by improper formation or premature loss of the blood clot in the extraction site; it can be quite painful and results in delayed wisdom teeth removal recovery.
To prevent dry socket, avoid smoking cigarettes and using straws for as long as possible after extraction. Because high estrogen levels lead to higher incidences of dry socket, it is recommended that women schedule extractions toward the end of their menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are lower to reduce the associated risk.
Dry socket may also occur due to improper diet following wisdom tooth extraction. Foods such as popcorn, nuts and pasta should be avoided for at least three or four days after extraction because their food particles can interfere with the clotting process. Hot liquids and foods also should be avoided, since the heat may cause the clot to dislodge.
The Advantages of Keeping your Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth have advantages as well. For example, they can provide support for a dental bridge, or fill in the space left by a missing molar. Furthermore, some scientists believe that wisdom teeth may serve as a future stem-cell source for the development of new teeth.
To Extract or Not to Extract?
Dentists previously determined whether to remove wisdom teeth using the only diagnostic tool they had at their disposal: a dental examination.
Dentists may use one or more dental technologies during a dental examination to diagnose the necessity for a wisdom tooth extraction (such as panoramic and digital X-rays). These technologies can help determine candicacy for extraction and the best means to approach the procedure. They are also used to help identify additional risks that may impact your dentist's approach to the procedure, such as the anatomical features of the tooth and surrounding structures.
The complication risks associated with extraction for people over 35 are greater than those of younger candidates. People over 50 faced with extraction are at a greater risk of complications because the bone fuses to the teeth as we age. There is also a risk of numbness in the extraction area.
Ultimately, if you wait to remove wisdom teeth until there is cause for medical concern, the risk for all complications increases. Today, dentists often recommend removing potentially problematic wisdom teeth by age 18.
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