The right side of my lower jaw has been hurting terribly for the past week, caused by an impacted wisdom tooth. I’ve been advised to have it extracted at the earliest along with the other wisdom teeth. Is it necessary to undergo surgery for the other teeth if they aren’t causing me any discomfort?

Impacted wisdom teeth are the third molar teeth that haven’t fully erupted into the oral cavity. Most people will have two on the upper jaw and two on the lower.

A tooth may be impacted due to many reasons including insufficient space in the dental arch to accommodate it, an abnormal position of the tooth or presence of a cyst. It may be partially impacted – where some of the crown is visible – or it may be fully impacted, where the tooth is submerged under the gums and bone.

Impacted teeth usually do not cause problems. However, since they’re at the back of your mouth, they’re difficult to clean and food and bacteria get easily trapped between the gums and the partially erupted tooth. This makes them more prone to infection and decay.

Based on your examination and X-rays, your dentist must have recommended removal of your wisdom teeth if they’re the source of infection. Dentists believe that all impacted wisdom teeth are potential problems that worsen with age and it’s better to remove them early. Having no pain or discomfort around the teeth doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with them. In many instances, you’ll experience a symptom only when the disease reaches an advanced stage. Dentists also suggest removing them all together because it’s more convenient to experience post-surgery discomfort in one go.

But, according to another school of thought, impacted wisdom teeth need not be removed if they don’t cause problems. Complications can arise after their removal, such as swelling, dry socket associated with pain and nerve damage.

However, if you decide not to remove these teeth, ensure that your dentist ascertains they are healthy. You might have to get your teeth regularly checked and take extra care to maintain good oral hygiene.