Impacted Wisdom Teeth and Bone Loss

A lot of controversy surrounds the debate about the removal of wisdom teeth. One thing all medical professionals agree on is that impacted wisdom teeth that have become infected pose a huge health risk and should be evaluated immediately.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, almost 10% of wisdom teeth develop infections that are damaging to the surrounding teeth and cause other complications.

Dr. Kevin Pollock, DDS MS, Rockwall area Oral and Facial Surgeon says,

“An impacted tooth simply means that it is “stuck” and cannot erupt into function. Patients frequently develop problems with impacted third molar (wisdom) teeth. These teeth get “stuck” in the back of the jaw and can develop painful infections, among a host of other problems. Impacted wisdom teeth should be removed before their root structure is fully developed. In some patients, it is as early as 12 or 13, and in others, it may not be until the early twenties. Problems tend to occur with increasing frequency after the age of 30. In general, you will heal faster, more predictably and have fewer complications if treated in your teens or early twenties.”

Infected wisdom teeth can damage the surrounding teeth, gums and even jaw bone. Symptoms typically include swollen, red and sometimes bleeding gums, pain in the jaw, tooth or gums, bad breath and difficulty opening your mouth.

A study conducted in the U.S. of 416 healthy men, ages 24-48, discovered a link between men who didn’t have their impacted wisdom teeth removed and a higher risk for gum disease. Gum disease is a serious infection that affects 3 million people or more a year. It can wreak havoc on the jawbone and lead to tooth loss. When left untreated, surgery can be required due to the deterioration of the gum tissue and bone structure that holds your teeth in place.

Tooth loss, due to decay or gum disease, leaves the jaw bone and surrounding tissue with gaps where the tooth root used to be. Over time, the teeth shift to fill some of the gaps, and without support and stimulus from the root, the bone in the jaw begins to weaken. This bone deterioration can be so severe over time that it can actually change the facial structure and appearance. The solution to avoiding these unpleasant consequences it to have any teeth that lost replaced as soon as possible with implants. Titanium sockets placed in the jaw bone take the place of the lost root in maintaining the integrity of the jaw bone and facial structure. The biggest problem arises when the jaw bone has begun to deteriorate to the point that an implant can’t be successfully placed.

Pollock says,

“Over a period of time, the jawbone associated with missing teeth weakens and is reabsorbed. This often leads to a situation where there is poor quality and capacity of bone suitable for the placement of dental implants. In these situations, most patients are not candidates for dental implants. With bone grafting, we now have the opportunity to not only replace bone where it is missing, but we can also promote new bone growth in that location. This gives us the opportunity to place implants of proper length and width. It also allows us a chance to restore functionality and aesthetic appearance.”

The best solution, according to the majority of the dental health professionals, is to have impacted wisdom teeth removed before they become infected to prevent complications that can lead to tooth loss in other areas of the mouth where the consequences are more detrimental to overall oral health. Thanks to advances such as bone grafting, infections and other complications that lead to tooth loss, don’t have to result in unfavorable conditions for repairs like dental implants.