If you’re considering having your third molars—more commonly known as “wisdom teeth”—removed, you should know that there are a number of compelling reasons to do so. One factor for consideration is the likelihood that wisdom teeth will ultimately become infected or promote inflammation.
Because the wisdom teeth are particularly hard to reach, it’s challenging to keep them clean, even for the most conscientious brushers and flossers. Also, the gum tissue attaches to the wisdom teeth differently than other teeth, which adds another obstacle to oral hygiene in that area of the mouth. As a result, the wisdom teeth can become a gathering site for harmful bacteria. Those bacteria can then wreak havoc in the mouth, causing a variety of problems for the patient.
Infections in the oral cavity are a serious matter. An infection that begins in the vicinity of the wisdom teeth can easily spread to nearby soft tissues or bony structures, causing gum disease and tooth loss. Ultimately, such an infection can even progress throughout the entire body.
The inflammation that results from such an infection also can have wide-reaching systemic effects. Oral tissue that becomes inflamed triggers the release of several chemicals and other molecules that may elicit a response from healthy cells in other distant areas as well. This process is of significant importance to women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, as some evidence suggests a link between oral inflammation and pregnancy complications such as low fetal birth weight.
It’s best to have your wisdom teeth removed when you’re in your late teens or early twenties, but older patients, who have missed that opportunity, should also be candidates for wisdom teeth extraction. In fact, older patients are more likely to experience significant problems from their wisdom teeth, so it’s even more important for these patients to consult with an oral surgeon about removal.
Even if you are “asymptomatic,” or your wisdom teeth are not causing you any problems, you should still have them removed, because many harmful processes that can occur do not always have signs of pain. If you wait until an inflammation or an infection develops, it can complicate the extraction procedure. Fortunately, Dr. Steven Koos, a dual-degreed oral surgeon in Chicago, can perform even complex extractions in the office comfortably with sedation.