Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars most people get in their late teens or early twenties. While some individuals may never develop wisdom teeth, others can have up to four, one in each corner of the mouth.
Wisdom teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when they're healthy and properly aligned. However, problems occur when these teeth are misaligned or impacted, which means they are unable to emerge through the gums properly due to lack of space.
Why do we have these often troublesome teeth? The answer lies in our evolutionary past. Our ancestors had a different diet, which included tough foods like roots, raw meat, and nuts. This diet required more chewing power, and wisdom teeth provided that extra grinding capability.
Today, our diet has significantly evolved. We consume softer, cooked foods, and our jaws have adapted accordingly, becoming smaller. Consequently, we no longer require the additional grinding power that wisdom teeth provide.
While some people have wisdom teeth that emerge without causing any issues, for others, these teeth can be a significant source of oral health problems. The main issue arises when the jaw is too small to accommodate these extra teeth, leading to their impaction or misalignment. This can cause a variety of issues, including pain, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth.
Misaligned wisdom teeth can push other teeth out of their correct position, causing a ripple effect of dental issues. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to the formation of cysts, which can cause damage to the jawbone and other teeth. They can also lead to gum disease and tooth decay, as their hard-to-reach location makes them difficult to clean properly.
How can you tell if your wisdom teeth are causing problems? Symptoms may include pain or discomfort at the back of your mouth, swelling, difficulty opening your mouth, and bad breath. If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's important to see a dental professional for a consultation.
In some instances, problem wisdom teeth may not show any symptoms but can still cause underlying problems, such as damage to other teeth or the jawbone. Regular dental check-ups are crucial to detect these issues before they cause significant harm.
The extraction of problem wisdom teeth has numerous benefits. Firstly, it can alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth. Secondly, it can prevent potential damage to surrounding teeth and the jawbone.
Wisdom teeth extraction can also prevent future oral health issues. For example, removing impacted wisdom teeth can reduce the risk of developing cysts, gum disease, and tooth decay. Additionally, it can improve oral hygiene as it's easier to clean fewer teeth, especially those located at the back of the mouth.
Wisdom teeth are a fascinating remnant of our evolutionary past. While they once served a purpose for our ancestors, they can cause more harm than good. Regular dental check-ups are essential to maintain oral health and detect potential problems, like those associated with wisdom teeth.
If you or a loved one is experiencing issues with your wisdom teeth, visit the Pediatric Dental Group at our office in Lihue or Honolulu, Hawaii. Call (808) 245-2131 or (808) 593-8828 to book an appointment today.