Waiting for the inevitable when dealing with partially erupted teeth can sometimes mean waiting too long.
Partially erupted teeth can be a threat to adjacent teeth, present a risk for development of periodontal disease and contribute to the risk for other diseases. Here’s why you shouldn’t wait to see an oral surgeon for a consult.
Risk to adjacent teeth. Partially erupted teeth do not meet the adjacent teeth in the normal position and are often a food trap. The food trap often leads to decay of both teeth. Decay that develops on the root of an adjacent tooth can be very difficult to treat.
Additionally, partially erupted teeth can cause resorption of the adjacent tooth. Resorption causes loss of tooth structure by a pressure related inflammatory process and can also be difficult to treat.
Risk of periodontal disease. We know from long-term studies on individual patients that periodontal disease often originates from partially erupted teeth, especially wisdom teeth.
Partially erupted teeth have a shiny smooth enamel surface that is trapped below the gum line. The space between this shiny smooth surface and the adjacent gum tissue traps microscopic food debris and bacteria and is an environment that is more anaerobic than the surface of the mouth.
Once established, the bacteria are very difficult to eliminate from the mouth, causing inflammation which leads to bone loss around the teeth and can cause an acute infection in the mouth as well. An acute infection around the crown of an impacted tooth is termed pericoronitis.
Risk for other disease. The same inflammatory process that occurs in the mouth releases inflammatory mediators into the blood stream that can potentially contribute to heart disease and stroke.
Patients with periodontal disease may have an increased risk of stroke and heart disease compared to those patients who do not have periodontal disease. We also know that patients who have diabetes have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar when they have periodontal disease and inflammation in their mouth.
Lastly, patients with inflammation in their mouth have an increased risk of cancer through mechanisms we do not understand well.
Partially erupted teeth should be evaluated in a timely manner to determine what treatment options, such as orthodontically repositioning the teeth or removal, are best to prevent complications. Waiting too long will not only narrow your options, but lead to more complications.
Dr. David W. Todd, DMD, MD, has been active in his profession. He has authored 18 articles in various publications and made numerous presentations at state, regional, and national meetings. For Dr. Todd’s full bio click here.