Can wisdom teeth push on other teeth as they grow?

Can widom tooth push other teeth?
Wisdom teeth are not always welcomed in the mouth as there is not enough room for them. As they grow through the bone and gum, they can cause various problems. One of the most common is when they push against neighboring teeth, potentially causing several complications like pain, cavities, and infections.

A wisdom tooth can push on the 2nd molar as it grows

The appearance of wisdom teeth is often troublesome due to their unusual positioning in the mouth.

When they don't have enough space to grow properly, they can lean or grow sideways towards neighboring teeth. It's like a collision, with the wisdom tooth meeting the adjacent tooth and exerting pressure against it.

This pressure can cause irreversible damage to the area, sometimes even leading to the loss of the tooth next to it.
Dental x-rays images showing an impacted lower wisdom tooth eating away at the roots of the second molar
Teeth farther from the wisdom tooth remain unaffected since they're distant from the impact zone. It's essentially the second molar, positioned right next to the wisdom tooth, that takes the biggest hit and may experience the most damage.

However, not all wisdom teeth are bad. If they're appropriately positioned and have adequate space in the jaw, they can function normally, just like other teeth, aiding in chewing without causing future issues.

Wisdom teeth can cause front teeth to overlap: Myth or reality?

There's a common belief that wisdom teeth can squeeze teeth together, leading to the front teeth overlapping. The idea is that the emergence of wisdom teeth coincides with a late crowding phenomenon observed in the front teeth of the lower jaw, typically occurring between ages 18 and 26.
Wisdom teeth as the cause of crowded front teeth: Myth vs. reality
While wisdom teeth can exert pressure on neighboring teeth and create some jaw discomfort, it's unlikely that they can cause teeth to shift significantly out of place.

This is because teeth are firmly anchored in solid bone by long roots and ligaments, requiring substantial and constant forces to move them. This would be possible if teeth were held in something soft.

So, not only do wisdom teeth lack the strength to induce crowding, but there are 14 other teeth in front of them that they would need to push to have any noticeable change.

Furthermore, research indicates that crowding of the lower front teeth occurs even when wisdom teeth are missing, suggesting other factors such as jaw growth and muscle activity.

As a result, extracting wisdom teeth just to prevent crowding is no longer considered a practical solution.

Reasons why wisdom teeth can grow into neighboring teeth

Wisdom teeth often don't grow in a straight line; instead, they may angle towards adjacent teeth. This awkward positioning is primarily due to a lack of space in the jaw, causing the wisdom teeth to bend to fit better.

When wisdom teeth encounter the second molars in their path, they can get stuck in that position and become impacted, i.e. not emerge at all in the mouth.
Dental X-rays showing impacted lower wisdom teeth stuck next to the second molars
While impacted wisdom teeth might not cause immediate symptoms, this doesn't mean this will always be the case. They can pop out at any time and lead to various complications, such as pain, cysts, infections, and damage to adjacent teeth.

But wisdom teeth can take on any direction you can think of. They can be straight, horizontal, angled to the right or left, forwards or backwards, or even positioned far from their usual location. Both genetic factors and environment play a role.
Different positions of impacted wisdom teeth
Sometimes, as wisdom teeth emerge, their sharp chewing surfaces can point towards the cheek, potentially causing injury while you talk or eat.

How badly can wisdom teeth damage other teeth?

When a wisdom tooth meets the roots of the second molar and becomes impacted at this position, it can continuously exert pressure and eat away at the roots and supporting bone.

As a result, the second molar may become loose and unstable, making it impossible to fix. This means both the wisdom tooth and the second molar might have to be taken out.

If a wisdom tooth manages to emerge into the mouth, it may settle into a poor position, promoting more plaque accumulation and making oral hygiene and cleaning harder. This can result in cavities and inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the tooth.
Dental X-ray showing a partially erupted wisdom tooth causing decay on the neighboring molar
At an advanced stage, whether wisdom teeth are impacted or partly out, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria. The result is an infection that can spread further to the surrounding area.

Additionally, it's not unusual for impacted wisdom teeth to develop cysts. These are fluid-filled cavities that form inside the jawbone.
Dental X-ray and image of a removed wisdom tooth showing a dentigerous cyst
Initially asymptomatic, cysts can grow over time, exerting pressure on neighboring teeth and potentially causing them to loosen and move. When they get larger, cysts can lead to jaw and facial deformities.

Warning Signs

As wisdom teeth grow in, you might feel some discomfort or pressure in that area that comes and goes. Sometimes, this sensation can extend to other parts of your face, like your jaws, joints, and ears.

If your wisdom teeth are well aligned with other teeth and have enough space, these symptoms are usually temporary and will fade as the teeth settle into place in your mouth.

However, it's not always the case when wisdom teeth are fully or partially impacted or don't have enough room to fit. Even if they don't cause any immediate pain or complications, it's crucial to check them regularly, as they can develop into serious issues later.

Some symptoms that you should see your dentist for include:

  • Intense, constant, throbbing pain in the jaw: If the pain becomes unbearable, it's not typical for the usual wisdom tooth eruption process and may indicate a complication like an infection.

  • Cavities: Wisdom teeth in odd positions are more prone to decay, potentially affecting neighboring teeth. So always check the area for signs of cavities.

  • Swelling: It's normal for the area to swell and feel tender as wisdom teeth emerge. However, significant or persistent swelling could signal a complication.

  • Pus leakage: If you notice a pale yellow liquid leaking from the gum or elsewhere, it's a clear sign of infection.

  • Shifting teeth: While wisdom teeth themselves don't usually make teeth move, if they do, it could mean a cyst or tumor is growing.

How are wisdom teeth that are growing into the teeth treated?

When a wisdom tooth poses a threat to the surrounding teeth, the best option is to have it removed. Wisdom teeth aren't as essential for chewing as they used to be, so removing them shouldn't pose an issue.

Therefore, if we are sure that they will harm nearby teeth and that removing them is more beneficial than keeping them, it's best to remove them as early as possible.

Otherwise, leaving them in place could cause more serious problems, potentially resulting in extensive damage to the surrounding area. You might end up losing multiple teeth rather than just the wisdom teeth alone.