The wisdom teeth, or third molars, which are located at the very back of your jaw, erupt in your late teens to early 20s. They are the last of your 32 teeth to come in, and the 4 that are most likely to become impacted, causing serious oral health issues, and a significant amount of pain. At B.J. Myers DDS and Associates, we can diagnose impacted wisdom teeth and help you to get the treatment you need to alleviate your pain and restore the health of your mouth.
History of the Wisdom Teeth
The wisdom teeth used to have an important function in the human jaw. Several thousand years ago, they were integral in helping our ancestors to breakdown the variety of coarse foods that made up a majority of the human diet. The jawbone was also much larger, which made accommodating the wisdom teeth much easier. The development of cooking has allowed for many of the coarse foods that humans ate to be broken down, and easier to chew, essentially rendering the wisdom teeth obsolete. The jaw began to shrink, reaching the size it is today, yet the wisdom teeth still continue to develop.
Common Issues Caused by Impacted Wisdom Teeth
For a small number of people, the wisdom teeth develop and erupt just like any other teeth. They are in proper alignment and cause no issues. However, for a large majority of people, the wisdom teeth are impacted. Impacted teeth (wisdom or otherwise) are those that do not properly erupt (or erupt at all) through the gum tissue. Wisdom teeth that are impacted can cause several different issues:
• Damage to adjacent teeth. Sometimes, impacted teeth grow in at an angle. If they are angled toward your adjacent teeth, they will eventually make contact with those teeth. This can cause damage, such as cracks, to your teeth below the gum line. This damage cannot be fixed with crowns.
• Pericornitis. In some cases, the wisdom teeth only partially erupt through the gums. When this happens, a pocket can form, trapping food particles and oral bacteria. It can be difficult to keep these areas of your mouth clean. As a result, localized infections (pericornitis) can occur.
• Cysts. Cysts are fluid filled sacs (they may also be either semifluid or gas filled) that form as a result of impacted wisdom teeth. The longer they go untreated, the larger the cysts become, destroying the bone. In some cases, the damaged caused by cysts may require a bone graft to restore strength to your jaw.
Diagnosing Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If you are experiencing pain at the back of your jaw, it is important that you call our office right away. We will perform a thorough oral exam to diagnose your impacted wisdom teeth (or other oral health issue). We start with a visual exam of the inside of your mouth, checking for signs of infection (redness and swelling), and alignment issues with your teeth. We will also take X-rays, which will allow us to see the position of your wisdom teeth, as well as check for cysts and damage to adjacent teeth. If your wisdom teeth are impacted, we will recommend extraction. We can perform simple extractions in your office. If your extractions will be more complex, we will refer you to an oral surgeon.
If you are experiencing pain at the back of your jaw, it should be addressed right away. Call B.J. Myers DDS and Associates to schedule your appointment today.