Unless you never develop third molars, there will come a time in your life when you have to decide what to do with those elusive teeth. Although there are a few opinions floating around about when to have wisdom teeth removed, here are several rules of thumb.
When You Can’t Keep Them Clean
Bacteria cause infection and when those tiny organisms find a safe haven, they will eventually wreak havoc on your mouth. Wisdom teeth are usually quite difficult to brush and flossing them effectively is even harder. Your dentist and hygienist will be happy to let you know when you aren’t cleaning certain areas of your mouth well, but don’t wait for them to say so. If you can’t physically get the bristles of your toothbrush around all aspects of your molars, or find it impossible to floss those teeth, then consider not having them at all.
When They Make a Partial Appearance
All of your teeth should have a natural “seal” around the neck of the tooth that keeps germs and food from migrating down to the roots. This circular area resembles a moat around a castle and is called a sulcus. Whenever third molars come in only part of the way, this sulcus won’t form properly. Bacteria can then enter the tissue and form colonies where you can’t reach them. Cysts and pockets of infection are prone to develop in these abnormal zones.
When They Come In Crooked
Tilted teeth can cause all sorts of problems and even though third molars don’t do most of the work in your mouth, they still need to get in line. A wisdom tooth heading in the wrong direction could potentially cause periodontal disease and cavities on teeth near them. Traumas like cheek bite and painful ulcers are also common where the sharp edge of a tooth rubs against delicate tissue in that way.
Before They Hurt
We often hear that patients want to wait until wisdom teeth are “bothering” them to make a decision about their treatment. Unfortunately the lack of pain does not mean that everything is okay. When we suggest third molar removal, sooner is always better. This is especially true when we suggest tooth removal before the roots develop fully. As the roots anchor themselves into the dense jaw bone, waiting longer only makes them more difficult to extract. Younger people tend to heal faster and under developed teeth also create less damage when they come out.
If you are one of the lucky few, your jaw will grow big enough to allow your wisdom to come in perfectly. A dental examination with a panoramic x-ray will determine if your third molars are safe to stay.