If you're like a lot of people, you've probably had a cavity or two in your lifetime. Though they are preventable, cavities are still very common. You can get cavities on any tooth and any part of your tooth, and even your wisdom teeth.
Many people don't think about their wisdom teeth. That might be because a lot of people had theirs extracted, or they didn't develop at all. Extraction of the third molars is one of the most frequently performed oral surgeries in the U.S.
One of the main reasons dentists recommend taking out wisdom teeth is because they often cause trouble. They typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, when people typically already have 28 other teeth in their mouth. In many cases, there's no room for the wisdom teeth, so they get stuck in the gum tissue or bone and become impacted.
An impacted wisdom tooth can be more likely to get a cavity, it's easier for food to get stuck near it. This trapped food near the tooth creates an ideal environment for decay-causing bacteria. Another reason why wisdom teeth might develop cavities is that it can be more difficult to clean them. It can be tricky to reach all the way to the back of the mouth with a toothbrush or piece of floss.
What to Do If You Have a Wisdom Tooth Cavity
If you get a cavity on any other tooth, your dentist will most likely recommend filling the cavity. Depending on the extent of the decay, you might even need a root canal to restore the tooth.
However, with a wisdom tooth cavity, it's a slightly different story. If the tooth is impacted and causing problems, your dentist will likely recommend extracting it. Even if it isn't, they may still recommend extraction, depending on the condition and placement of the tooth.
If your wisdom teeth have fully erupted in your mouth and aren't stuck in the gums, it's possible that your dentist may be able to fill and restore the tooth just like any other. That's why it's important to see them for regular checkups, so they can assess the health of all your teeth and detect any cavities.
Should You Keep Your Wisdom Teeth?
If you still have your wisdom teeth and this concerns you, bring it up to your dentist at your next checkup. Your dentist might recommend leaving the teeth alone if they aren't causing you any issues. Your dentist will continue to closely monitor your wisdom teeth during your dental visits, as cavities or other problems could come up later.
If your wisdom teeth haven't come in properly, your dentist might recommend removing them. They'll discuss your options for wisdom tooth removal with you and let you know what to expect during the procedure. And if you develop a wisdom tooth cavity, rest assured that your dentist will help you find the right solution to keep your mouth healthy in that scenario, too.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
Brian Y. Kuo DDS FAGD