Wisdom teeth are the last sets of teeth to grow in. They usually develop between the ages of 15-25, in early adulthood. It is common to have wisdom teeth removed once they have fully grown in. This is most often done as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of infection or overcrowding. However, there are many different reasons for a wisdom tooth removal. Let’s discuss the signs and symptoms that determine whether or not you need your wisdom teeth extracted.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are molars that are situated at the very back of the mouth. Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to grow in. They are usually fully formed by the late teen or early adult years. They are large and take up plenty of space along the jaw bone. Most patients have a total of four wisdom teeth, however, some patients do not have wisdom teeth at all, and they never grow in.
Why do we Have Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth may seem to be more harmful than helpful in modern times. However, they were beneficial to our human ancestors. Wisdom teeth are vestigial parts of the body which means that they used to serve a purpose but over time and evolution, they are no longer required for survival. Another example of a vestigial organ is the appendix. Our ancestors had larger, more pronounced jawbones that could accommodate wisdom teeth. These large, powerful molars were used to chew tough foods such as rough plant fibers.
As farming developed, we could grow plants that were easier on our teeth and bodies and wisdom teeth were no longer needed. Nowadays wisdom teeth can be harmful, our jaws are no longer large or pronounced. There is less room for these large teeth to grow and they can lead to infection.
Signs you Need your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Many patients remove their wisdom teeth as a preventative measure before there are signs of infection. However, if you have chosen to keep your wisdom teeth, there are some symptoms to look out for. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, you may need to have your wisdom teeth extracted.
1. Redness and Swelling
This is a common sign of early infection and should not be overlooked. If you notice signs of swelling or redness along your gum line, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist. These symptoms alone may be a sign that your wisdom teeth are infected. They can also be a symptom of gingivitis, gum disease, and poor oral health. You may simply need a tooth cleaning but it is best to check with your dentist. A common sign that clearly indicates a wisdom tooth infection is swollen ‘chipmunk cheeks.’ The patient’s gums swell so much that the bulging is clearly visible.
2. Persistent Aching Pain
If you feel pain at the back of your mouth, whether it occurs while you are eating, speaking or simply smiling, your wisdom teeth may be infected. Wisdom tooth pain is similar to that of a toothache, it starts as a dull pain and becomes strong and persistent. If the pain progresses quickly or occurs suddenly (within 24h) visit your dentist or the emergency. You may require emergency wisdom tooth extraction.
3. Bleeding Gums
Bleeding gums on their own are often caused by poor oral health care. However, if your gums appear to be bleeding in a specific spot, or they are bleeding in conjunction with additional symptoms listed, you may need your wisdom teeth removed.
4. Crowded Teeth
Many patients had straight teeth as children and they notice their teeth become crooked as they enter adulthood. This is a sign that your wisdom teeth are growing in and crowding your jaw. Wisdom teeth are the largest molars in your mouth and they need plenty of space to grow in.
In doing so, they push other teeth and cause constant pressure, which causes them to become crowded and crooked. Crooked teeth can be minimized with wisdom tooth removal. If the teeth are noticeably crooked, you may benefit from braces or Invisalign after the teeth are removed.
5. Partial Eruption
Partial-eruption occurs when your wisdom teeth grow in fully, but do not have enough room on the jaw to fully erupt from beneath the gums. Partially erupted wisdom teeth are prone to infection because they are still partially covered by your gums. They are extremely difficult to clean because food and bacteria collect easily under the excess gum tissue. Patients with partially erupted wisdom teeth tend to have them removed to prevent infection.
6. Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow in. They often do not have much room to grow properly and they can become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth grow horizontally (instead of vertically like regular teeth) and they can push against neighboring teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth are often not noticeable and are best detected through bite x-rays.
Wisdom teeth are notoriously hard to keep clean. They sit at the very back of your mouth, and many people find it difficult to brush and floss them properly. As a result, cavities are common in wisdom teeth, which, if undetected, can lead to pain and infection.
Do Wisdom Teeth Always Need to be Removed?
Wisdom teeth do not always need to be extracted. In some cases, wisdom teeth grow in normally and have room to fully erupt. If these teeth are healthy and do not affect the neighboring teeth, there is little chance that they need to be removed. There are times, however, where tooth extraction is necessary.
Dentists will suggest wisdom tooth removal, with your best interests in mind. Wisdom tooth removal is most often a preventative measure. If the wisdom tooth becomes infected or you experience the symptoms listed above, there is a good chance that your wisdom teeth need to be removed immediately. Learn more about wisdom tooth removal in our blog post “Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?” We also have shared some helpful methods on how to recover from wisdom tooth removal in our post “How to Recover from Wisdom Tooth Removal.”
Visit Your Dentist
At LA Dental Clinic, our team of dentists and dental assistants can help to determine whether or not you need your wisdom teeth removed. With x-rays and dental checkups, we monitor how your wisdom teeth are growing and can remove them if they become infected or harm the neighboring teeth, or to prevent future complications. Contact us for a consultation or call 213.385.9710 to learn more about wisdom tooth removal in Los Angeles.