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Can Wisdom Teeth Removal Affect Your TMJ?

Wisdom teeth removal is super common. In fact, a big portion of the population gets their wisdom teeth removed before they even break through the gum line. People who don’t get them removed early will often have them removed later.

Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?

Dentists and oral surgeons remove the wisdom teeth for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there is a fear that the person’s jaw is not large enough for these extra molars, which means they could push other teeth out of alignment. There may also be a fear that the wisdom teeth could get stuck underneath the gums, causing infection.

When wisdom teeth are removed only as a precaution, this is known as “prophylactic” removal. Although this surgery has been fairly routine for decades, some experts believe that the surgery is unnecessary in many cases.

If you’ve ever had oral surgery, you know that the recovery can be painful and certainly puts a wrench in your schedule for a few days or even weeks. Operating on the sensitive gums and teeth can be traumatic, interfering with your ability to eat and drink normally, not to mention speak and go to work or school.

Even routine wisdom teeth removal comes with the risk of infection and pain.

TMD and Wisdom Teeth Extraction

If wisdom teeth extraction on a normal jaw has some risks, the situation becomes even more complicated if the person has a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). That’s because an already inflamed, stressed, and irritated jaw joint may be further aggravated by the stress of the surgery itself and the difficult recovery afterward.

Even if you don’t have TMD now, however, simply having this surgery could trigger it. In fact, some evidence suggests that removing the wisdom teeth is a risk factor for TMD. This is why it’s important to pay attention to pain and other symptoms after surgery and be evaluated for TMD if needed.

Why Wisdom Teeth Removal Puts Stress on the TMJ

During wisdom teeth extraction, the surgeon must have the mouth open wide in order to access the teeth at the very back of the mouth. Often, the third molars are not even visible on the surface of the gums yet if the surgery is being performed on a younger patient. The surgery can take an hour or more to complete, depending on how many teeth are being removed and how complicated it is.

The removal of any teeth obviously causes some trauma to the gums. In many cases, the surgeon uses surgical instruments to cut the gums and remove the teeth below, followed by stitches to close up the area. Sometimes, however, the surgeon may be able to pull the teeth out without surgical cuts and stitches. This can leave a pocket of space in the gum where the tooth used to be, and requires special care as well.

Either way, this surgery results in a prolonged period of time with the patient’s jaw is forced open very far. For people who have TMD, this can be a major trigger for TMJ pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Sometimes it can’t be avoided: you may need your wisdom teeth removed even if you have TMD. We encourage our patients to have a discussion with the oral surgeon (which will be referred to by us) about the risks and benefits of this procedure. Obviously, if the wisdom teeth cause impaction or infection, they should be removed. If there is a reason to believe that the wisdom teeth may displace other teeth in the mouth, they should be removed as well.

Having your wisdom teeth removed doesn’t have to cause you weeks or months of pain from TMD, however. Though some discomfort will be normal for the first few days, there are ways to take care of your mouth and jaw to ensure you have a healthy recovery.

About Pasadena Pain Management

Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we also offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.