Our phones ring all too often with a frantic parent saying, “My son or daughter is away at college and has terrible pain and swelling in the back of their mouth. What should we do?” Well, we’d love to tell them to rush right over, but that’s hard to do when they’re hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
In this scenario, the young person is often suffering from an acute flare of wisdom tooth pain. Wisdom teeth are the four molars farthest back in the corners of our mouths. Generally breaking through the gums between the ages of 17 and 25, they often cause considerable discomfort and infection. When there isn’t sufficient room for them to emerge unimpeded, they are said to be impacted.
Possible complications from impacted wisdom teeth may include…
- acute or chronic discomfort
- abscess of the tooth or gums
- bite issues which cause improper contact between the upper and lower teeth
- excessive buildup of plaque trapped in the crowded spaces between the teeth and gums, leading to decay and/or gum disease
In general, impacted wisdom teeth that cause pain, infection, or bite problems are usually removed. But not all problems are painful or visible. Even wisdom teeth that cause no apparent or immediate problems are particularly vulnerable to disease. In fact, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation have found that even those wisdom teeh which ahve grown into the mouth in a normal, upright position may be as prone to disease as those that are impacted! Moreover, the older, we get, the more prone they are to disease, and the more difficult they are to remove.
Simply put, it isn’t wise to wait until your wisdom teeth start to bother you to seek dental advise and evaluation. This is especially true for college students who are far from home, with limited resources, no access to the trusted family dentist, and no parental companionship. In this worst-case scenario, both the student and the parents are subjected to undue additional stress and discomfort. If you didn’t already know, we have on our staff a full-time doctor, Dr. Andrea Patterson, DDS, who provides a full scope of care for her patients, including wisdom tooth evaluation and treatment. So ensure your student doesn’t suddenly find himself or herself in a dental emergency far from home and all alone. Call us now to schedule a complete evaluation – while they’re home for the summer! And while you’re at it, schedule an evaluation for yourself, as well. The wisest approach is always the proactive approach!