Wisdom teeth — or third molars — are our final set of molars and usually start to emerge between the ages of 16 and 25. They are known as “wisdom” teeth in most cultures because of their late arrival compared to other molars. Like getting your braces off, the removal of wisdom teeth has become a dental “rite of passage” for many teens and young adults.
When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can be painful - you may have pain towards the back of your jaw and inflammation. However, it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means they are painfully lodged in your jawbone and removal is necessary.
There are few oral health issues that can be as painful or disruptive to daily life as impacted wisdom teeth so its important that you are able to identify the issue as early as possible and receive the necessary care. Some of the indicators include:
- Throbbing pain in the back of the mouth. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause a great deal of pain, particularly as the condition worsens. The pain may radiate from the back of the mouth, particularly focused on the area around the wisdom teeth and other molars and will worsen as the surrounding teeth begin to become affected.
- Swollen, tender and bleeding gums. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause the gums to become swollen and tender to the touch. They may start to bleed when pressure is applied, making flossing and brushing both painful and difficult.
- Swelling around the jaw. Impacted wisdom teeth are often accompanied by swelling of both the gums and jaw. It can be subtle at first, but can worsen quickly to the point that it can become painful or difficult to open your mouth, talk or chew.
- Swollen glands in the shoulder and neck. Impacted wisdom teeth are often accompanied by swollen glands in the shoulder and neck.
- Headaches. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause headaches of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jaw and skull. This pain may radiate to other areas of the head and face as well.
Any of these symptoms are a good reason to call your dentist or doctor. At the Raleigh dental practice of Jeff M. Morrison& Associates, we will conduct a thorough exam, including taking x-rays, and will rule out other issues such as gum disease, infection, decay or temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. If you, (or your teen's) wisdom teeth are impacted we will want to remove them. This can usually be done in our office or we can refer you to an oral surgeon.
A great way to prevent the pain of impacted wisdom teeth is to continue your routine preventive care as you get older. As part of your dental exams, we will monitor the development of your wisdom teeth by taking X-rays periodically to track their position and movement. If we believe they are likely to cause problems down the road we may suggest you have them removed as a preventive measure. This is often done long before the teeth emerge because the longer wisdom teeth remain in the mouth the more developed their roots become, making their removal more complicated and the recovery time longer. Since wisdom teeth will try to make room for themselves in a tightly packed jaw, they may also shift teeth that have been previously straightened with braces or other orthodontic devices, ruining the investment you made in your orthodontics.
If you (or your teen) still have wisdom teeth, don't wait for complications to occur before talking with Dr. Morrison about your options. Make an appointment with us today or call us at 919 755 3450.
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