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What's the deal with Wisdom Teeth?

Some people are lucky enough to never experience the pain associated with wisdom teeth. While others battle painful, sleepless nights and traumatic procedures to have them removed. They are not technically necessary, but they can cause chaos when they erupt and most people opt to have them removed - so why do we even have them and why do we need to have them removed at all?

The most widely accepted theory about the origins of wisdom teeth goes back to our early human ancestors. They had a very different diet– mainly roots, raw meat and fibrous plants– so they needed extra molars just to grind up tough food. These days, we eat much softer foods and  have smaller jaws so those third molars don’t fit quite as well anymore.

While some people never get their wisdom teeth, they’ll show up for most of us between the ages of 17 and 21. Unfortunately, they don’t always come in the way they should, which is why a lot of us have to get them removed.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

If your wisdom teeth are erupting without any problems, you do not have to get them removed. As long as they are not causing pain or affecting your other teeth, it is perfectly safe to keep them.

Here are 5 reasons why we may recommend removing your wisdom teeth:

Overcrowding – Not everyone has room at the back of their mouths for wisdom teeth and that may mean that they have trouble erupting or might press on your other teeth. Overcrowding causes complications with your bite and results in painful jaws.

Impaction – When your teeth cannot erupt fully or they grow in at an angle, the condition is known as impaction. Impacted teeth may try to grow through your gums but then need to recede again if there isn't enough room. This constant struggle makes your teeth painful and may even cause problems with your jaw.

Pain – Even if the development of your wisdom teeth is completely normal, their location may make the process of eruption too painful. Removing them eliminates pain without affecting the integrity of your bite.

Infection – If you are lucky enough to keep your wisdom teeth, you will need to take special care of them. Their location at the back of your jaws makes them difficult to reach and keep clean. Make sure you have a small enough toothbrush to reach the back of your mouth, so you can avoid a periodontal infection.

Deep decay – Though dental decay prevention has improved dramatically, your wisdom teeth are the most susceptible to this condition because of their location at the back of the mouth. If you keep your wisdom teeth, you might consider having dental sealants and fluoride varnish to add extra protection against cavities.

Even if your wisdom teeth cause you no issues - it is very important to have a dentist monitor their growth when they erupt. At HBDS, we examine these teeth in order to project their growth and determine whether they will cause any issues when they eventually erupt - this helps us advise on treatment options and determine whether you will need them removed.

If you feel any pain or discomfort and you think your wisdom teeth may be the culprits, give Hout Bay Dental Studios a call. Our experienced staff will schedule an appointment for you and our highly trained dentists will do a thorough examination of your mouth to find the source of your pain, before advising on a tailored treatment plan to suit your needs. You don't have to live with the pain and discomfort of erupting wisdom teeth for a day longer, HBDS will put together a full treatment plan to ensure your wisdom teeth never bother you again.