Most of the useful teeth in your mouth come into full use early in your teenage years, but there are teeth that appear long after this time and may not even surface until the early twenties. These are the molars at the back of your set of teeth colloquially known as wisdom teeth. They are named as such due to their late arrival in the mouth. You will find four in your set of teeth once they have all fully emerged. They do have a minor role to play despite their distance from the main cutting and chewing area of your teeth. So if they have pushed through nicely in the right place they can help to break food particles down into a more manageable size before the food is finally swallowed.
Not all wisdom teeth emerge normally
Because they are late arrivals in your mouth there may not be sufficient space to accommodate them as the adjacent teeth may have spread out to such an extent that they can be partially locked below the gum line or in the jaw. At this stage they are referred to as impacted wisdom teeth.
Problems from impacted wisdom teeth
- Any wisdom teeth that aren’t in the expected position may allow particles of food to become lodged, making it difficult to remove them. In the long run, this can lead to bacteria build-up and cavity formation.
- A wisdom tooth that isn’t in quite the right place means there is little if any space between it and the adjacent molar. This makes cleaning difficult to achieve, especially flossing, as there is little space where the thread can slide between the teeth removing any damaging food particles or plaque that has started to form between the teeth.
- A wisdom tooth that has only partially emerged can offer bacteria a place to get into the gums where an infection could arise.
- A wisdom tooth that has limited space to emerge may damage adjacent teeth.
- An impacted wisdom tooth could contribute to a cyst forming near or on the impacted tooth which may damage the roots of adjacent teeth or even destroy the teeth’s supporting bone structure.
Reasons for removing a wisdom tooth
Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted, but if there is evidence of pain that can’t be solved, an infection has developed, or there is a cyst present, extraction may be the only solution. Other reasons that may lead to your dentist reaching a decision to extract a wisdom tooth is damage it may be inflicting on adjacent teeth, the occurrence of gum disease or signs of tooth decay.
Keeping wisdom teeth in place
Wisdom teeth aren’t in a part of the mouth that gets the best attention when it comes to brushing and flossing, so if you are intent on keeping your wisdom teeth as long as possible that means being particularly vigilant at all times when it comes to flossing and brushing. Spending longer on your own oral hygiene and ensuring you are using the right toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste will help to maintain the health of your wisdom teeth. Of course, ensuring you attend regular dental check-ups every 6 months will help your teeth too.