How to Know if Your Wisdom Teeth Need to Come Out

Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth are nothing more than an unnecessary set of teeth, graciously left over from your ancestors. Thousands of years ago, they probably came in handy for chewing a rough selection of foods that included roots, nuts, leaves, and meat. But it sure doesn't seem very wise that they've decided to stick around, particularly since they can cause problems. While some people never have an issue with their wisdom teeth, you may suspect that you do. Here's how to know if your wisdom teeth need to come out.

Your Wisdom Teeth Become Impacted

Most people don't have enough room behind their second molars for their wisdom teeth to come in. As a result, the wisdom teeth can become impacted, meaning they are blocked from erupting. For some people, this is completely painless, and the only reason you know is because your dentist is giving you the news.

Impacted molars should be removed, regardless of whether they are causing problems right now. More often than not, they do eventually lead to pain, and they could become infected. If the infection goes untreated, it can spread to the throat or other parts of the neck. And last, it can totally affect the rest of your teeth—altering the alignment, causing gum disease and tooth decay, and leading to the growth of cysts in the jaw.   

You Experience the Following Symptoms

1. Tender Gums. As the wisdom teeth become blocked from erupting, the gums can become tender, inflamed, red, swollen, and susceptible to bleeding. Brushing and flossing can become a real challenge at this point.

2. Throbbing Pain. The pain is typically centered around the wisdom teeth, and it could be sharp or throbbing. For some, the pain might radiate to other parts of your teeth, jaw, and neck.

3. Enlarged Lymph Nodes. Lymph nodes respond to so many things that go on inside the body, and your wisdom teeth are no exception. If yours are experiencing problems, you might have swollen glands that go from the neck all the way down to your shoulders. This usually indicates that the teeth are infected and need attention right away.

4. Swelling Around the Jaw. At first, the swelling can be so minor that you hardly notice it at all. But in time, it can become so severe that you have trouble opening or fully closing your mouth.

5. Headaches. Pain from impacted wisdom teeth can radiate to other parts of the jaw. If it causes pain in the temporomandibular joint, it can lead to headaches. At first, you may think you're suffering from TMJ, a painful condition that results from clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Your dentist will ultimately be the one to confirm whether the headaches are due to impacted wisdom teeth.

You Are 18–24 Years Old

Most dentists agree that wisdom teeth can be removed at any age, but when push comes to shove, most will also argue that doing this minor procedure between the ages of 18 and 24 is ideal for a couple of reasons.

First, it's best if at least 2/3 of the root has developed in the tooth in order to make the extraction easier. Teeth that have long or fully developed roots can be a little more challenging to remove. Second, bones tend to become more rigid as you age, which can make the surgery more difficult.

If you're the parent of a teen, or you're a young adult between the ages of 18 and 24, visit clinics like Justice Dental to learn more about having the wisdom teeth removed now. It's the best way to prevent them from giving you problems when you're older.