Are your back teeth hurting you? If you don’t take care of your back teeth, you could wake up with major dental problems. 

Because wisdom teeth often have no place to go, they can get stuck, or impacted, growing beneath a second molar. If they are unable to push up through the gums, they’ll push sideways, growing horizontally or at an angle and emerging from the side of the gums. Wisdom teeth can also strong-arm their way into the mouth, pushing aside or damaging second molars, which can cause a chain reaction and move all the teeth.  

According to WebMD, wisdom teeth can also cause:

  • Jaw damage – Cysts can form around the new teeth. If they aren’t treated, they can hollow out your jaw and damage nerves.
  • Sinus issues – Problems with wisdom teeth can lead to sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.
  • Inflamed gums – Tissue around the area can swell and may be hard to clean.
  • Cavities – Swollen gums can create pockets between teeth that help bacteria grow and cavities form.
  • Alignment – Impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems with crowding of other teeth and even make treatment to straighten other teeth necessary.

Many dentists suggest the removal of third molars before they appear, when they’re still forming beneath the gums. People in their teens often have wisdom teeth removed long before the teeth ever see the light of day.  J. David Johnson, an American Dental Association spokesman, said in U.S. News, “Many patients will elect to go ahead and remove their teeth during that time period where the roots are incompletely formed.”  

As people age, the difficulty of extraction and related risks—such as nerve injury—increase. Plus, patents in their 30s or 40s may need a much longer period for recovery than younger patients. 

During wisdom tooth extraction at any age, the dentist will administer some type of anesthesia, and then will:

  • Make an incision in the gum tissue to expose the tooth and bone
  • Remove bone that blocks access to the tooth root
  • Divide the tooth into sections if it’s easier to remove in pieces
  • Remove the tooth
  • Clean the site of the removed tooth of any debris from the tooth or bone
  • Stitch the wound closed to promote healing, though this isn’t always necessary
  • Place gauze over the extraction site to control bleeding and to help a blood clot form

It’s rare to have complications after extracting wisdom teeth, although there may be pain and swelling immediately afterward. Other possible complications could be:

  • Dry socket – Normally, a blood clot forms at the site of the extraction, protecting the bone and nerve endings in the empty socket. If the blood clot is dislodged or dissolved before the wound has healed, the socket can become inflamed. Dry socket can be caused by an infection but may be caused by smoking or by drinking through a straw. 
  • Bacterial infections – Although only a small percent of patients get infections, as a preventative measure, your dentist may provide antibiotics prior to surgery to lower the risk of post-surgery infection. 

Do you now have, or have you ever had, wisdom teeth? If you’re over 25, chances are you had them, but they were removed. Of course, you may be in the 35 percent of the population that never even gets wisdom teeth. 

So, what’s the story with wisdom teeth? Why does nature consider them optional? It seems like their only reason for existing is to get yanked out as soon as they appear. Do they have a purpose? 

Wisdom teeth have a curious history. They’re called “wisdom” teeth because they appear when we’re in our late teens, an age at which we’re theoretically wise. Of course, anyone who has ever known or has ever been a teenager knows this is probably not accurate.

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, have been with us for all of our history, and humans are not alone in having wisdom teeth; other mammals—including our close relative, the chimpanzee—also have them. Our third set of molars was probably useful when we were primarily eating coarse, rough foods like leaves, roots, nuts, and meat. These foods require a lot of chewing and grinding. Consequently, teeth would wear down at a fairly early age. Adding a third set of molars gave our ancestors a little extra grinding power, while also extending the life of all their teeth. 

Over time, as our ancestors’ brains got bigger, their heads and faces changed shape. One change was that jaws got smaller, and those smaller jaws had a difficult time fitting in a third set of molars. At the same time, the development of knives, forks, and softer, cooked foods, reduced the need for all those big, grinding teeth. 

Today, nature may be growing weary of providing teeth we immediately remove and perhaps humans are evolving toward a day when no one will get wisdom teeth. Until that time, though, why do most people have their wisdom teeth removed?

Our first molars usually arrive when we’re 6 or 7 years old. Second molars appear a few years later, when we’re 11 to 13 years old. After the second molars, there’s really no room for any more teeth. But our third molars, which start forming when we’re about 10 years old, don’t really care that our mouths have the “No Vacancy” sign on; they’re barging in anyway. 

If you have a child between ages 10 and 15, Dr. Robert Brei can monitor the development of your child’s wisdom teeth and spot potential problems in the early stages of development, when the teeth are easiest to extract. If your wisdom teeth are erupting or are causing pain or seem infected, call the office of Dr. Brei immediately for a consultation and appointment. 

There are many ways to contact the office of Dr. Brei. You can email them at appointments@drbrei.com, call them at 520-325-9000, or click here to book an appointment directly. If you’re one of the 65 percent of the population who have to deal with wisdom teeth, call  Dr. Brei before problems arise.