Wisdom Teeth

Is keeping your wisdom teeth a smart thing to do? It depends. Our ‘wisdom’ teeth, or third molars, usually erupt between the ages of 15-25. If they are positioned at an angle in someone’s jaws, they may not erupt fully, or at all. While our ancestors may have had adequate room for these teeth, often today we do not. The decision to keep or remove them at any point in our life is  made with several considerations.

Often when wisdom teeth begin to erupt, bacteria and debris can become trapped under the gum tissue around the tooth, causing pain and infection. If this occurs or it appears there isn’t enough space in someone’s mouth to accommodate the teeth, removal may be recommended. Sometimes wisdom teeth may be ‘impacted,’ or trapped under the gum, bone, or adjacent teeth due to their position. In these situations, removal may also be recommended to reduce the risk of future problems. Cysts, decay and other infections, and resorption of the adjacent tooth can all be reasons for removal of an ‘impacted’ tooth.

Some people’s third molars erupt in a normal position and they have adequate space in their mouth for them. Because they can be difficult to keep clean, the teeth can get decay and/or gum disease and this can affect the molars in front of them. If people have most of their other teeth present, removing wisdom teeth may be recommended.

If removal is recommended, the ideal time to do this is often when people are in their teenage years, before the roots are fully formed. This reduces the risk of root fracture andnerve damage during surgery. The most predictable bone healing afterward also occurs in teens and young adults. While we can wait until later adult years to have them removed if problems arise, the teeth can be more difficult to remove and bone healing is not as predictable. Your dentist can discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure with you and recommend what is best for your situation.