Wisdom Teeth: To Remove or Not to Remove, That is the Question. Wisdom Teeth—for some, they’re a minor inconvenience, if they’re noticed at all. For others, they’re the bane of existence, destructive and painful.
Every year, millions of third molars—wisdom teeth—are removed. These day’s it’s a mere assumption that a person will have their wisdom teeth removed, usually before they’re 20. But, at the same time more and more people are questioning the necessity of the procedure. Some of the cause for concern surrounds much of the publicity over deaths related to wisdom tooth extraction. In these cases, the death has nothing to do with the actual wisdom tooth, but the anesthesia—generally the result of an error made by an anesthesiologist. It’s not uncommon to hear about deaths in this type of situation, not because they are common, but because they are so rare. In fact, wisdom tooth extraction is such a common procedure, that hearing about a death while having this type of surgery tends to carry a shock value. However, complications are a part of any surgery, regardless of how common it may be. Other concerns stem from the high rate the surgery takes place. It’s such a common practice that many patients or potential patients considering wisdom tooth removal may wonder if they’re getting the surgery “just because” and not because there is a genuine issue or potential issue. Both of these are sound concerns. Like with any surgery, you should be made full aware of the risk, as well as all the options. In the case of wisdom teeth, no, not everyone needs to have them removed.
To determine whether or not wisdom tooth extraction is right for you or your child, it’s best to consult a dental professional, who can take x-rays, and determine how the molars have formed or might form, which may result in problems down the road. Those problems? Infection – an infection can develop from a number of different factors. It might be from bacteria infecting the eruption point. Infection as the result of poor oral hygiene, as wisdom teeth can be difficult to thoroughly brush and floss. Cysts – cysts can form at the site of an impacted molar. The cyst, often a formation of fluid, can damage the surrounding teeth, tissue, and jawbone, requiring further surgery beyond tooth removal. Gum disease – since the third molars can prove difficult to clean, gun disease—along with cavities—can easily form, which can lead again to infections and pain. Damage – to adjacent teeth, surrounding muscle and other tissue, and the jaw. It may lead to fracturing or breakage of the wisdom tooth the nearest tooth, or even the jaw. Depending on the fracture, it may require not only the removal of the affected wisdom tooth, but the second molar as well. Pain – it goes without saying an impacted wisdom tooth can hurt. But, then again, you might not feel anything, at least not immediately. By the time you feel discomfort or pain, the tooth may already be severely impacted an require immediate removal. Another thing to keep in mind is the affordability of wisdom tooth extraction. The out of pocket expenses are much lower than many other procedures and remains one of the most accessible surgeries (another reason it’s so common).
The take away? Since it’s already important to receive regular oral check-ups, you or your child should also keep an eye on those wisdom teeth. They may not necessarily need removed, but it’s also one of those “you never know” situations as they can ultimately be unpredictable.