I have my wisdom teeth still in my mouth at 34 years of age. They are in bad shape, although the rest of my teeth are healthy. All four of them are decayed. Three of them are half way gone. One is almost completely gone with bits and pieces. I haven’t had any pain with this and no indication of any infection. Because of my age, removing my wisdom teeth would be more complicated. Plus, I’m thinking with less for the dentist to grab onto it would be even more tricky. Is it possible for me to just let them decay and come out on their own or are there safety issues with that? Or maybe that just doesn’t happen.
On the negative side: While it is possible for your wisdom teeth to just decay and be done, there are some risks to that approach. When a tooth is relatively intact, the decay can go deep and reach the pulp which will lead to a dental infection. The infection moves down the pulp of the tooth and goes to the bone, where pressure and pain build up. If it finds a way to break through the bone, this can relieve the pain and swelling. If it doesn’t find an outlet, the swelling will continue to grow and will move down your throat, closing off your air passage. When it comes to the upper jaw, which is very close to the brain, you don’t want it spreading or impinging on blood vessels. All of these risks are life-threatening.
On the positive side: Teeth that are breaking off can make the infection easier to deal with. First, the infection has an outlet, which keeps it from spreading to the bone. Second, your teeth have constant eruption forces that gently push the tooth upward to meet its opposing force. This means more and more of the decayed tooth will push out. As it does this and keeps breaking, more of the tooth will push out until it is gone.
Two other considerations are first, you may not be able to see how deep the roots are. Some are super long and deep going well into the bone. Second, you’ve got constant bacteria being released and touching your healthy teeth, which can accelerate decay in them and create preventable dental emergencies.
On balance, my opinion is there is less risk by having these teeth removed. However, the choice is yours.
This blog is brought to you by Decatur, AL Dentists Drs. Drake and Wallace.