It’s Much Easier To Get Cavities In Wisdom Teeth

Image of Cavities In the Crevices And Valleys Of A Tooth

Cavities In the Crevices And Valleys Of A Tooth
Courtesy of: Craig Sommer DDS

In conversation with friends you may discover that all of you are quite different when it comes to having cavities in wisdom teeth. Some of your friends have straight teeth without ever needing orthodontics or braces   Others will have had braces and their teeth are crowded again.  It can be the same with cavities. Everyone is unique but with similarities.

There is also variation in the shape of teeth from culture to culture but they again share similarities. The terrain of the chewing surfaces of molar teeth can be described as having valleys and mountains. The valleys are called fossa and the mountains are called cusps. If you could imagine a low level flyover of the chewing surfaces you would see considerable variation.  Some would have steep valley walls and deep gorges. Others would have broad smooth valleys with gently sloping hills. At the depths of the valleys or fossa, deep crevices or holes can often be found. These holes or crevices can be so narrow that even toothbrush bristles cannot penetrate and clean these areas. This mountain and valley terrain is the next most important place to clean on wisdom teeth after the smooth sides. And once again soft bristle toothbrushes with finer bristles can do a better job of cleaning these narrow crevices and holes. Your goal is to do your best to prevent cavities in wisdom teeth.

The biting surface shape of a tooth, like so much of our appearance is inherited. So you can have a combination of the best traits of your mother and father or the worst, or anywhere in between. I regularly see patients with teeth that are just coming through the surface of the gum tissue with holes and crevices that are already showing the beginnings of decay. I know it doesn’t seem fair, for a tooth to come in, with the cavity already starting. But that’s what we often see.

In some cultures the shape of the teeth at the bottom of the valley is round and smooth and there’s little chance of cavities forming in those places. They have few or no  holes or crevices (pits and fissures are the technical terms if you are preparing for the quiz). The tooth genetics are just in your favor if you have those smooth teeth. You get to thank your mom and dad, and grandparents too, for that. And in other cultures with different genetics we see a much greater tendency for cavity formation. The shape of your teeth, however is not the only reason you can develop cavities.  Deep grooves and crevices just trap and hold onto food more.

Food leftovers. Why is that so it critical? Because bacteria feast on the the groceries or food that you’ve left behind, producing acid as a waste product causing tooth decay. This bacterial sewage is so acidic that if it stays on the teeth, for any period of time, it will dissolve them. As each layer of the tooth is dissolved the bacteria move progressively deeper and deeper into the hole.  Their acidic waste eats away more and more of the tooth until you start to feel pain or the bacteria infect the nerve deep inside the tooth. Decay, caries and cavities are all names for a bacterial infection of the teeth.

All of this may occur without you ever feeling anything until it’s too late. Your very first warning may be the extreme pain or the swelling of your face due to a tooth abscess caused by . That’s why I recommend regular checkups be completed by your dentist, even before you begin to feel pain. This gives him an opportunity to inform you of what’s happening in places you cannot see. Once he explains the problem and the potential solutions, he will hand the situation over to you for decision making.

I have a few patients that tell me that their teeth brush themselves, so to speak, as they chew, and they don’t have to use a brush or floss. Yes, I have encountered a few people that eat nothing but uncooked vegetables, have great genetics, and seem to be very healthy in spite of the tendency for our society to have tooth decay and gum problems. They are truly the exceptions. The vast majority of us are not quite so lucky.

It’s at this point when you may decide, I can’t seem to keep my wisdom teeth clean, I keep getting cavities. I quit. I’m going to have them removed. I see some patients in my office with wisdom teeth that are in the right position, straight, and impeccably clean. But it’s much more common to see wisdom teeth showing signs of cavities forming and gum problems developing more than a few years out of your teens.

Just to recap, genetics can be in your favor or against you.  Your maintenance and cleaning efforts can be in your favor or against you too. So your dental experiences can be very similar or vastly different from your friends or even your siblings.

Look for more articles in the series- Questions You Must Ask Your Dentist Before Having Your Wisdom Teeth Removed