We wrote last month about taking care of baby teeth, but what happens when your baby becomes a teenager?
By the age of twelve or so, your child will have the vast majority of their adult teeth and will hopefully have an excellent oral hygiene routine already established. However, there are four potentially pesky extra teeth just waiting to make their appearance and making sure your teen knows what to watch for is critically important for avoiding trouble down the line.
Wisdom teeth generally make their appearance between the ages of 15 and 25. They are four large molars positioned at the back of each quadrant of the mouth. They can cause numerous issues, so ensuring that your teen knows what to look out for can help them access treatment quickly. This means a better chance of avoiding painful infections in the future.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are considered vestigial, which means that way back in our evolutionary history they served a purpose, but don’t anymore. It is theorised that we developed wisdom teeth when our ancestors lived on a diet of tough, wild game, raw plants, and hard nuts, and needed big, strong teeth to chew and break down their food. Today however, our diets have changed significantly, and we no longer need such large molars. Indeed, like the appendix, it’s perfectly possible to live without wisdom teeth, as evidenced by the fact that 85% of people will have theirs removed at some point in their lifetimes.
What Are The Symptoms of Erupting Wisdom Teeth?
The most easily identifiable sign of wisdom teeth coming in is actually seeing them break through the gum at the back of your teen’s mouth. However, wisdom teeth don’t always erupt, so if your teen is complaining of pain in the back of the jaw, and inflammation or swelling at the back of their mouths, we advise a check-up. This is because wisdom teeth that don’t break through the gums are impacted, which means they’re growing at an angle and pushing on the roots of neighbouring teeth, or even growing down into the jawbone itself.
The Dangers of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause a whole host of issues for your teen if not properly treated. The most visible of these issues is misalignment of the other teeth due to being pushed out of the way by the incoming wisdom teeth. Indeed, because the wisdom teeth are so very large, they can cause other teeth to shift position very noticeably, leading to the need for corrective orthodontia such as braces.
This however isn’t the only thing you should warn your teen about. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause a whole host of issues, some of which can even be life-threatening. Impacted wisdom teeth are very susceptible to infection, and these infections can quickly spread to the blood. Blood infections are very, very serious, and require urgent medical intervention to prevent possible fatal consequences. Symptoms of infected impacted wisdom teeth include pain, swelling, and a bad taste in the back of the mouth, so if your teen is suffering any of these, please get them to our clinic as soon as possible!
A further issue that can happen with impacted wisdom teeth is the formation of a cyst around the tooth in question. While not quite as lethal as a blood infection, these cysts can also cause huge amounts of damage to the mouth, destroying the jawbone and affecting the neighbouring teeth.
How Can We Help?
At Iris Dental, we are passionate about treating patients of all ages. If your teen is complaining of pain in the back of their jaw, or if you’ve noticed their wisdom teeth coming in, we recommend bringing them in for a consultation.
We’ll examine their mouth and jaw for signs of infection or impaction and make recommendations for treatment based on what we find. Wisdom tooth removal is incredibly common and shouldn’t cause your teen too much discomfort beyond the initial healing period of a week or two. Early removal can prevent a lot of pain, so we suggest keeping a close eye out for any signs of emerging wisdom teeth and ensuring that your teen knows to watch out for.
To learn more about the treatments we offer at Iris Dental, please have a look here.
To schedule an appointment, please call (03) 9394 7877, or use our online booking portal.