By Stacey Long
West Paces Ferry Orthodontics Clinical Manager
What are Wisdom Teeth?
Between the ages of 16 and 23, a young adult’s wisdom teeth begin to erupt behind their back molars. Some people only have one or two wisdom teeth emerge while others have all four wisdom teeth erupt. Wisdom teeth are extracted for a variety of reasons, such as impaction, infection, and overcrowding of teeth. In some cases, they do not need to be extracted but are removed by people who do not want to worry about future problems with their wisdom teeth.
Why Wisdom Teeth Should Be Extracted
In addition to impaction (a condition in which wisdom teeth cannot erupt because they are lying sideways in the gums), good reasons for having wisdom teeth removed include:
- Damage to other teeth by pushing teeth into other teeth’s roots
- Painful bite problems due to an uneven bite
- Development of sinus issues, sinus pressure, and chronic congestion
- Swelling and inflammation of gum tissue around wisdom teeth (swollen gums encourage cavities by forming pockets around teeth that attract bacteria)
If your wisdom teeth are causing pain or are negatively affecting your oral and general health, you should consider having them extracted.
Not All Wisdom Teeth Need To be Extracted
Why would a large percentage of people decide to have their wisdom teeth extracted? One reason involves the perception that all wisdom teeth need to be extracted eventually anyway. Some dentists encourage extraction of wisdom teeth by telling patients they would not have to deal with possible future problems with their wisdom teeth if they just had them removed.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is not without the risk of complications, however. If you have more than two wisdom teeth extracted, you will most likely be sedated during the procedure. General anesthesia makes some people sick to their stomach when they wake up. Also, you could suffer bleeding issues, post-extraction infections and a painful condition called “dry socket.” This happens when blood clots fail to form correctly in a wisdom tooth’s empty socket.
Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Extracted?
Although wisdom teeth are all-too-routinely removed, deciding whether extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary should involve a trip to your dentist for a complete examination of your wisdom teeth and an informed discussion with your dentist. You should also be aware that certain wisdom teeth myths may influence your decision in the wrong way. Some of the myths include:
- It is easier on you physically if you have wisdom teeth removed as a young adult. Wrong & Right. You can experience the same complications as a teenager or young adult as you could as an older adult. That said, the bone around wisdom teeth gets denser as we age making the process more uncomfortable as we get older
- Leaving wisdom teeth in will force your front teeth to shift and become crooked. Wrong. As experts in orthodontics, we know that wisdom teeth do not crowd teeth, and should not affect the position of your other teeth at all. They can damage other teeth, but only those teeth they are directly in contact with while growing in
- Wisdom teeth increase the risk of oral disease. Wrong. Just because wisdom teeth are in the back of your mouth does not mean you cannot reach them with your toothbrush. If the wisdom tooth has partially broken through the gums but still remains partially covered this can be a cause for concern. Making sure you see your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning will also reduce your risk of cavities and gingivitis.
Have you had your wisdom teeth extracted? Have you chosen to keep your wisdom teeth? We are interested in hearing your stories about the pros, cons, and in-betweens of wisdom tooth extraction. Share in the comments!