Wisdom Teeth And Your Oral Health

Oral_HealthIt’s well known that your oral health is heavily dependent upon the condition of your teeth and gums, but did you know that the number of teeth in your mouth could impact your oral health as well?

Our wisdom teeth – officially known as our third molars – may have evolved to help our distant ancestors chew a very crunchy diet of nuts, roots and uncooked meat. Today, most humans have smaller faces than our prehistoric forebears, and that has created a situation in which the presence of our wisdom teeth presents an oral health challenge for most of us.

Wisdom Teeth and Oral Health

Modern dental patients typically struggle with their wisdom teeth for three reasons, all of which should be addressed by a dentist if they are happening.

  • Many people’s wisdom teeth never fully erupt (reach the surface). If a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully erupt, it is known as either partially or fully impacted. This means that the teeth may grow in the wrong direction – that is, sideways instead of upward. Wisdom teeth can grow completely horizontally in some cases.
  • Because impacted wisdom teeth can grow in directions in the mouth for which they were never intended, patients can experience bite problems. Adjacent teeth can get pushed out of their natural spots in the jaw, and wisdom teeth growing near a tooth nerve can create jaw pain.
  • The combination of impacted wisdom teeth and the bite/alignment problems they can create makes the teeth difficult to clean, and that can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. This is often made worse by the fact that teeth in the back of the mouth are the most difficult to reach with a toothbrush and floss anyway.

Many dental professionals recommend wisdom teeth be removed before they cause problems, and more than 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted each year. Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist in practice in central Phoenix, says that patients should discuss the state of their wisdom teeth with their provider if they are experiencing symptoms such as pain, infection of soft tissue behind the lower last tooth, cysts in the mouth, or damage to nearby teeth related to the movement of wisdom teeth.

“Wisdom teeth, if they are not healthy and functional, can negatively impact your oral health,” she said. “Discuss having them removed with your dentist if you have concerns about them or experience any symptoms.”



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