Impacted Third Molars: When They Should Go
Impacted teeth are those teeth that fail to erupt within their expected development time. An impacted tooth is prevented from reaching its normal position in the dental arch by the soft tissue, bone, or another tooth.
The third molars, also commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the teeth most notorious for impaction, the most widely studied in dental literature. There are several theories that claim the rationale for third molar impaction. Why do these teeth almost always get impacted? Most accepted is the lack of space, being the last teeth to erupt in the dental arch.
Genetics also plays a role, though unpredictable. Another is the mismatch between the size of the teeth to the size of the jaw. Evolution is also cited as an influence as modern man’s diet is softer and finer than of our prehistoric ancestors, their jaws being larger and their third molars accustomed to coarse diets.
Usually erupting between the ages of 17 to 21, some third molars emerge without problems while many others get stuck. Some are partially erupted, tilted sideways. Others totally do not erupt. While an impaction can be painless, in some cases the gum tissue above an emerging tooth can be swollen and infected, causing pain.
You might feel it in the nearby tooth, or in your ear, or on that side of your face. Pericoronitis is an infection of the impacted teeth. Left unchecked, it can involve the throat or the neck. There can be difficulty opening and closing your jaw, pain while biting or chewing, a bad taste in the mouth, or bad breath.
Third molars can get cavities that lead to decay. Their very posterior location in the mouth makes it difficult for brushing and flossing adequately. If they are decayed, third molars can infect nearby teeth leading to a larger area of gum disease. The molars can become wobbly and even alter your occlusion, the way your upper and lower teeth come together.
While you can’t prevent impaction, your dentist will nonetheless advise you to stick to your oral hygiene, thus preventing the buildup of plaque. For minor irritation, pain killers can help or you can rinse with warm salt water. But should the pain be bothersome, or the tooth is already infected and is also affecting its adjacent neighbor, the best option is extraction. Procedure is not complicated and recovery time is brief.
Contact Dr. Jaime Lee at Smile Art
Consult with your Downtown Seattle dentist if your third molars are bothering you. Know more how to live with them or deal with them with our options. Dr. Jaime Lee has got special training where problematic third molars are concerned.