BENGALURU: The last permanent teeth to grow, post 17 years, are the least useful. And if wisdom teeth don’t grow straight, they could cause decay or infection.
These set of four teeth, also called the third molars, grow behind the second set of molars. In terms of function, there’s little they do towards grinding your food. But if infected, they could lead to swollen, red or bleeding gums, jaw pain, swelling around the jaw, bad breath, unpleasant taste in the mouth or difficulty opening the mouth.
Doctors call this ‘impacted wisdom tooth’, and recommend a visit to the dentist as, if left untreated, it could lead to further complications -- cysts, decay or gum disease.
Damage is not restricted to the affected tooth. “If the wisdom tooth pushes against the second molar, it may damage the latter or increase the risk of infection in the area,” says Dr S Divya, assistant professor, oral and maxillo facial pathologist, Vydehi Institute of Dental Science and Research. “This pressure can also cause crowding of other teeth, which might need to be straightened out with orthodontic treatment.”
Pus can also form around the decayed tooth. This will also impact the neck region, Divya adds.
Dr Sateesh Kumar, President, Jaws Dental and Implant Center, says wisdom teeth usually emerge sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. “In some, they grow without problems, in line with the other teeth, behind the second molars. In many cases, however, the mouth is too crowded for third molars to develop normally.”
Unless they grow straight -- if the wisdom teeth grow at an angle towards or away from the second molar, at right-angles as if “lying down”, inwards or within the jawbone, or even straight but stay trapped within the jawbone -- it could indicate problems, says Sateesh.
Doctors say such impacted teeth pose a challenge in terms of treatment as they emerge at the end of the inner jaws.
“Extraction is an out-patient procedure that includes sedation or anaesthesia,” says Dr Divya. “An incision is made into the gums, and if a bone blocks access to the tooth’s root, it also has to be removed. Once extracted, the dentist or oral surgeon stitches up the wound and packs it with gauze. Post the surgery, patients might suffer a little pain, but on the whole, it leaves them feeling better.”
If the wisdom tooth pushes against the second molar, it may damage the latter or increase the risk of infection in the area