When you hear that 5 million Americans have their wisdom teeth removed every year, you feel pretty lucky if you’ve gone your whole life without any issues.

Wisdom teeth are a tight fit for anyone, and most don’t have the dental real estate to squeeze them in. But for a small group of people, they grow in fine, erupting fully and neatly lining up with the rest. You may count yourself as one of the lucky ones because nobody wants to go through the painful process of tooth extraction.

The value of wisdom teeth removal isn’t always obvious, and the majority of people can benefit whether they have immediate issues or not. Even if they grow in without causing discomfort, wisdom teeth can cause severe health problems if left unmonitored.

Do You Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

The wisdom teeth are the third set of molars at the back of the mouth that begin to erupt in the late teenage years. For many individuals, their wisdom teeth don’t have enough space to emerge from the gums at the correct angle.

Impacted Teeth

Wisdom teeth often grow in sideways or remain trapped in the gums, making them “impacted”. An impacted tooth can cause several problems. When it becomes lodged beneath the gum, a wisdom tooth will often cause an infection that can lead to further complications.

Infections from impacted teeth cause many of the serious signs that you need an extraction. If you get sinus infections, for example, it may be caused by pressure from an impacted upper wisdom tooth. When bacteria are allowed to thrive around impacted teeth, fluid-filled cysts can also develop in the jawbone and the soft tissue in your gums.

A dentigerous cyst is a small bump that can develop without you realizing it. When they start to enlarge, you may start to notice swelling, sensitivity, or even shifting of the teeth.

When they’re small, benign cysts often have no symptoms, and it may take an X-ray to let you know that you have one. If it’s allowed to sit, you can develop gum disease, an infection, or tooth decay. You’ll eventually have persistent pain and possible swelling as your tooth starts to erode.

In the worst cases, your jaw will be compromised and possibly fracture. The cyst may also evolve into a benign tumor in the jaw.

Impacted teeth can also lead to complications with the rest of your teeth. Trapped bacteria can spread to connected teeth, causing further decay. As they grow, impacted wisdom teeth can also force your teeth out of alignment.

Does Everyone Have to Remove Their Wisdom Teeth?

Although it’s a common practice whether there are problems or not, wisdom tooth extraction is not a necessity for everybody. If they are healthy, growing in fully, and positioned correctly without causing problems for the rest of your teeth, you may be able to go your whole life without removing any wisdom teeth.

It’s uncommon for wisdom teeth to be managed because they’re positioned so far back in the mouth and difficult to see. They may not feel like they’re problematic, and you may not feel any pain. Still, you may not be cleaning them adequately, and slow tooth decay may be occurring without you realizing it.

If you do still have your wisdom teeth, this is one of the main reasons to have regular office visits. Visiting your dentist at least once every six months will allow them to check for bacteria growth, softening gums, or other signs of decay and infection. They can also take X-rays to make sure there are no developing cysts or tumors beneath the gums.

Why Removing Wisdom Teeth Is Important

Although they don’t erupt fully until around age 18, wisdom teeth can usually be seen developing in X-rays by age 12. As early as age 7, doctors can begin to see any potential issues with teeth developing.

There are numerous benefits to removing wisdom teeth, and many dentists feel that having a skilled oral surgeon extract them early is the best route. The healing and recovery process is usually shorter, and you can usually avoid most related issues by taking them out right away.

Preventing Damage to Other Teeth

Many orthodontists recommend oral surgery for children who had orthodontic work to prevent a growing tooth to disrupt the work they put in. If it grows under the gum, it can push and loosen nearby teeth or rub away the enamel. But even if your teeth have fully erupted, they can still cause damage to nearby teeth.

Wisdom teeth are very difficult to clean. It’s easy for bacteria to grow between teeth, causing neighboring molars to develop cavities and the gums to weaken. By removing your wisdom teeth early, you’ll keep the rest of your teeth intact.

Avoiding Infection and Disease

When you remove a wisdom tooth, you remove a hub for bacteria to thrive. Your gums will be healthier and protected from gum disease and inflammation. You’ll be less likely to develop infections, keeping you from painful and expensive dental procedures or more extreme health problems.

Reducing Pain, Improving Taste

Crowded teeth, whether your wisdom teeth are impacted or exposed, can create a lot of pressure on your face. Simply removing them can reduce the everyday discomfort of sensitive teeth and gums, and it can even help prevent headaches and referred pain.

New science is also suggesting that having your wisdom teeth pulled can improve your taste. A 20-year study found that individuals who underwent wisdom teeth removal showed up to 10% improvement in tasting ability over individuals who kept their wisdom teeth.

Remove Your Wisdom Teeth Early

Staying on top of regular dentist visits is the most effective way to prevent issues with your wisdom teeth. Talk with your dentist about any potential problems, and discuss your options for having an extraction. The sooner you arrange to have your wisdom teeth removed, the fewer dental problems you’ll have in the future.

If you’re ready for the benefits of wisdom teeth removals, our team at Jenkins, Morrow & Gayheart is here to help. Our oral and maxillofacial surgery experts provide the care and conscientious service to make every extraction a success. For information about how we can help you smile brighter, contact us today.