When is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?
Have you ever noticed that a number of memorable events in our early life involve our teeth? First baby tooth. First lost tooth. Braces on. Braces off. And, for 75 to 85 percent of people, the removal of their wisdom teeth is quite a memorable event as well. Wisdom teeth removal doesn’t happen in early childhood, but most dentists do recommend it sometime between the late teens and early 20s. Braces San Diego
In the past several decades, wisdom tooth removal has been fairly standard practice, but it’s not always necessary. First, not everyone has wisdom teeth. And second, wisdom teeth can actually grow in healthy and remain that way without negatively affecting a person’s oral health.
What exactly are wisdom teeth?
Almost everyone has two sets of molars. The first set grows in around age 6, and the second around age 12. But about 85% of the population also has one or more late-stage molars that grow in behind the other two. These are commonly known as wisdom teeth, or third molars. Wisdom teeth usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25.
Unfortunately, there are more disadvantages to wisdom teeth than advantages. Because we already have two other sets of molars, we don’t actually need them. In fact, evolutionary biologists classify them as vestigial organs, or body parts that have become functionless by way of evolution. Over millennia, human jaws have become smaller through evolution, which may be the main cause of the problems caused by wisdom teeth.
The problems with wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth do not cause problems for everyone, but this is in part because most people have their wisdom teeth removed before they begin to cause problems. With the use of X-ray technology and scans of the mouth and jaw, dentists can see how the molars are growing in and how much room they have to do so. In most cases, the jaw is not large enough to accommodate the extra molars. This can cause the wisdom teeth to grow in at odd angles, damaging the other teeth or pushing them out of alignment. These additional molars can even remain trapped beneath the gums. This is known as “impacted” wisdom teeth, and if left in place, they can result in considerable oral health complications, including severe pain and cysts.
Even when wisdom teeth do erupt from the gums without causing immediate problems, they can lead to complications down the road. With little room to grow and their position far back in the mouth, they are more difficult to brush and floss, making them likely to trap bacteria and food. This can cause them to become decayed or infected. And because wisdom teeth make it more difficult to care for the second set of molars as well, they too become more vulnerable to decay and infection.
When is it necessary to remove wisdom teeth?
Not everyone with wisdom teeth develops complications from them. It would seem, then, that the smart thing to do is to wait until a problem develops before removing them. But it’s easier to remove them in the late teens and early 20s before the roots have a chance to develop fully. As we age into adulthood, our jaw bones become more dense, and wisdom teeth removal becomes much more difficult and potentially complicated.
Some people are able to keep their wisdom teeth without any problems, but even if you decide to take a chance that you are one of those people, it’s important to know when it’s time to consider having them removed. It may be necessary to remove your wisdom teeth if you experience:
- Bite problems
- Overcrowding of your other teeth
- Difficulty brushing and flossing your back teeth
- Jaw pain
- Sinus problems
- Toothache, sensitivity, and throbbing in the back of the mouth
- Red, sore, swollen gums
None of the oral health issues above is a definitive sign that your wisdom teeth are the culprit, but it’s important to let your dentist examine you and take X-rays to determine the exact cause. If your wisdom teeth are a part of the problem, it may be best to have them removed before they cause further complications.
Need a wisdom tooth consultation? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hage today.
At University Dental in San Diego, you’re in the hands of a highly skilled and experienced dental practitioner with a commitment to providing his patients with excellent dental care, and keeping them as comfortable as possible every step of the way. Give us a call to schedule your wisdom tooth consultation with Dr. Hage today.