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Thousands of years ago, humans needed extra chewing power. An extra set of molars (now called wisdom teeth) did the trick. Contemporary humans don’t need them. Many patients get their wisdom teeth removed as teens or young adults. Wisdom teeth removal has become a rite of passage and the subject of some viral videos as young patients emerge from anesthesia.
Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. However, just because you’re not in pain doesn’t mean your dentist doesn’t have a good reason to recommend removal. Many of your family dentist’s recommendations about wisdom teeth are based on the potential for future problems. Communication and information are vital.
Why Do Some People Have Wisdom Teeth Removed While Others Don’t?
If you’re not having immediate pain and swelling, your dentist may still recommend wisdom teeth removal in your late teens or early 20s. We often base our decision on what we see in X-rays. We evaluate the size and shape of your mouth: do you have room for four extra molars? Will they crowd your other teeth and cause alignment problems? We also look at images to determine how your wisdom teeth will come in. Will they become impacted and get stuck in your jaw instead of erupting? Finally, we look to take advantage of conditions that make it easier to extract molars in teens and young adults. Is it better to remove them now rather than risk complications later on?
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Your wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that generally come in between the ages of 17 and 25. Most people have four wisdom teeth–one on each side, both top and bottom. However, some people only have one or two, and others never get wisdom teeth, likely because of genetic factors. Experts believe our wisdom teeth are a holdover from ancestors who needed extra chewing power to manage prehistoric diets. The consensus is that most 21st-century humans don’t need them, and they can do more harm than good. Usually, your family dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon for the removal procedure.
Do I Need To Remove My Wisdom Teeth If They Don’t Bother Me?
Some patients experience pain and swelling in the gums around the back molars or impacted teeth. In these cases, removal is usually a no-brainer. However, in other cases, your dentist recommends removal based on what he sees in the future. The idea is to prevent problems down the road while removal is easier and less painful. The first step is an X-ray in your family dentist’s office. Not everyone needs to have wisdom teeth removed. Some patients have plenty of room and do just fine with their wisdom teeth. However, some of the reasons we recommend removal include:
- Impacted wisdom teeth cause alignment issues when they press against the jaw or gums and can damage the jawbone.
- The angle of your wisdom teeth will create crowding and affect neighboring teeth.
- Your mouth doesn’t have room for the extra teeth.
- If your wisdom teeth erupt, they can cause gum inflammation.
- Wisdom teeth are prone to cavities because of their hard-to-reach location.
Am I Too Old To Get My Wisdom Teeth Out?
As we age, the bones in our mouths get harder, so extraction later in life can cause complications. As a teen, the bones around your wisdom teeth are softer, and the nerves in your mouth are still developing. Removing wisdom teeth in younger patients is easier and less painful. However, if you experience problems with your wisdom teeth as an adult, talk with your family dentist. It’s never too late to assess the problem and find solutions.
At Hall Family Dentistry, we have been providing thoughtful and conservative family dental care for decades. We don’t recommend unnecessary procedures. We recommend removing wisdom teeth because we feel it’s in the patient’s best interest. If you have questions about your child’s wisdom teeth–or if you’re an adult patient with intact wisdom teeth, Dr. Hall and his team are happy to do an evaluation and talk with you about the next steps.