Planning and Preparing for Dental Procedures: Your Questions Answered

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Planning and Preparing for Dental Procedures: Your Questions Answered

Making decisions about your smile can be confusing. Should you have a tooth pulled or get a root canal? Should you get adult braces or stick with a retainer? Should you use at-home whitening remedies or have your teeth professionally whitened? If questions like these are keeping you up at night, you've come to the right place. I used to stress out over routine dental procedures, and as a result, I did loads of research on everything dental-related. To help others, I'm using this blog as a place to collect, review and share what I've learned through the years. I hope you can use the information here to help you plan and prepare for your next dental appointment.

Is It Ever Necessary to Replace an Extracted Wisdom Tooth?

You might have heard that the loss of a tooth (whether it was extracted, succumbed to decay, or was knocked out due to an accident) sets off a slow domino effect in your mouth. Other teeth have to pick up the slack, accelerating wear and tear, with teeth on either side of the empty dental socket even tilting slightly into the gap (which misaligns your bite). Ignoring a missing tooth is extremely unwise, and replacing it (typically with a dental implant) is a win-win situation for your ongoing dental health. But does this apply to wisdom teeth?

The Luck of the Draw

Some people are extremely lucky with their wisdom teeth, although it's impossible to improve your odds since these are largely determined by your genes. For a lucky few, third molars can erupt to a degree that makes them functional, and the length of the dental arch can be sufficient to accommodate wisdom teeth without overcrowding the jaw. The stability and general health of these wisdom teeth will be monitored during a patient's regular dental checkups, but if the teeth aren't causing any problems, they'll be left as is. Of course, not everyone is this fortunate with their wisdom teeth.

Impaction and Overcrowding

Wisdom teeth removal takes place when the teeth are impacted, and/or overcrowding the jaw. Impacted wisdom teeth have not erupted to their full vertical dimension, remaining partially submerged in the gums. This impaction makes cleaning the teeth difficult, and so wisdom teeth are more prone to decay. The accumulation of gingival tissues around the impacted tooth makes these tissues more susceptible to inflammation and infection (a condition called pericoronitis). 

A Redundant Presence

Because an impacted or decayed wisdom tooth has never functioned efficiently as a molar, its presence in your jaw is redundant. It might play a small role in chewing your food, but this role is ineffectual, and the tooth's minor contribution is unnecessary. This is why problematic wisdom teeth are removed, without the need for a prosthetic replacement of any kind. Since this removal eliminates a surplus tooth that has been adversely affecting your dental health, your bite will be improved once the tooth is gone, and your gums have healed after the removal process.

Remember that wisdom teeth removal improves your overall dental health, and the removal restores the balance of your bite. This is why extracted wisdom teeth are not replaced. They're gone for good, and you'll feel the benefits each time you open your mouth.