Today I'd like to say a few words about wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth, or third molars as they are formally titled, are a source of many dental problems. They are the last teeth to erupt, usually in the late teens to early twenties. They come in at the back of the mouth, behind all of the other teeth. Why do they cause trouble for so many people?
A full set of teeth numbers 32, unfortunately most people don't have anywhere near enough room in their mouths for 32 teeth. This lack of space can cause the wisdom teeth to become impacted, a word that strikes fear in many hearts. Impacted simply means the tooth did not erupt in a normal fashion. Wisdom teeth can be fully impacted, meaning totally below the gums and not visible in the mouth, or partially impacted, stuck in a semi-erupted position. Fully impacted teeth generally don't hurt, but are a potential source of cysts or tumors in the jaw. Partially impacted teeth can be very painful as the gum tissue over them is frequently irritated and swollen due to food getting trapped between the tooth and the overlying gum. Either way the teeth probably need to be removed.
Even if you are one of the lucky ones whose wisdom teeth erupt normally, they can still cause trouble. Because of their position so far back in the mouth they are very difficult to brush and floss and are prone to decay. Filling the cavities solves the problem short term but does not make them any easier to keep clean. In my experience, it's just a matter of time before wisdom teeth develop decay. Rather than fix a new cavity every couple of years, it's better to just extract the tooth.
Everyone has heard a horror story about wisdom tooth extractions: stories of pain, swelling, bleeding, unable to eat for days or the dreaded dry socket. While these complications can arise they are not very common. Most people who have their wisdom teeth extracted suffer nothing more than minor discomfort for a few days. You only hear the horror stories because it is no fun to talk about having your wisdom teeth removed if you had no problems afterward.
I realize wisdom teeth are not the most exciting things in the world. Having to get them removed is not the end of the world, and once they're gone you'll never miss them.
Have a great weekend everybody!!