Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

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They all say we get wiser with age, and we get our wisdom teeth too! Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, typically come into the mouth around the ages of 17 and 21. Wisdom teeth that erupt normally are great additions to your oral cavity as they aid in chewing. However, some individuals may need to have their wisdom teeth removed for various reasons. You may know a lot of people who have had to have their wisdom teeth removed, which may have you questioning, “should I get my wisdom teeth removed?” Here’s what you need to know to help you answer this question:

The eruption of wisdom teeth can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals never develop wisdom teeth, while other individuals have wisdom teeth that do not poke through the gums. Since wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in, sometimes there is not enough space in the mouth for them to erupt. Plus, wisdom teeth can grow in the wrong position, or may even be diagnosed as impacted, meaning they are stuck in the bone either fully or partially below the gums.

Wisdom teeth that erupt in the wrong place can create “food traps,” which allow bacteria to grow and create dental cavities. It can also be challenging to properly clean wisdom teeth that have erupted improperly, as well as the neighboring molars. This can increase the risk of developing oral infections, along with pain, swelling, and jaw stiffness.  An infection commonly associated with unhealthy wisdom teeth is pericoronitis, which is characterized by inflammation around the tooth caused by bacteria. If untreated, fever, pain, and spread of the infection can occur.

An impacted wisdom tooth can cause harm to the adjacent tooth by damaging its crown, roots, or the surrounding bone. The formation of a cyst may also occur around the impacted wisdom tooth, which can also cause damage to the teeth and supporting bone. Impacted wisdom teeth may cause pain or present without any symptoms.

Through clinical examination and dental x-rays, your dental professionals will monitor the position of your wisdom teeth and determine if wisdom tooth extraction is necessary in your specific case. Wisdom tooth extraction is a common dental procedure performed by either a dentist or oral surgeon. Your dental professionals may recommend wisdom teeth removal for various reasons, including the presence of pain, infection, tooth decay, cysts, tumors, persistent bad taste, gum disease, damage to neighboring teeth, or as part of orthodontic treatment or other restorative dental care. In addition, your dentist may recommend for you to have the extraction procedure when you are younger due to fewer post-operative complications than older adults undergoing wisdom tooth extraction. The extraction procedure can become more complex in older adults as the roots are fully formed and the bone is more dense. Post-operative healing also tends to be slower in older individuals.

If extraction treatment is decided upon, you will be informed on how many wisdom teeth are recommended to be removed, the different types of dental anesthesia that can be administered (i.e. local anesthesia, IV sedation, general anesthesia), the risks, benefits, and alternative options for treatment, and pre and post-operative instructions regarding the surgery. Be sure to ask any questions you may have regarding the procedure.