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The 411 About Wisdom Teeth
Monday February 1st, 2016

Around the time you are finishing high school you might start to hear discussion of your wisdom teeth (third molars) and whether they should be extracted. It seems like it’s pretty common at this stage of life, but is it necessary to have the wisdom teeth removed? In some cases, yes, but it isn’t always the case. And in a few cases, the wisdom teeth never developed so it’s not a consideration at all! So let’s talk a little about wisdom teeth and give you some basic info.

The “third molars” become visible on an X-ray between 10 and 15 years of age and become a concern to your dentist and orthodontist just about the time you are finishing high school. So what’s the big deal? Wisdom teeth have been blamed for causing teeth to get crooked after braces are removed. Not true! Teeth can shift if retainers are not worn, but studies have shown that teeth shifting are not caused by the wisdom teeth, so it’s not a reason to have them removed. There are other problems that can be created that give us a legitimate reason to want them removed.

One of the most common reasons to have the wisdom teeth out is that they are difficult to care for. It is hard to clean the area effectively so the chance of gum disease and cavities is greater. If decay occurs, it is difficult for the dentist to fix as well. And even if there is sufficient space for them, because of the risk of gum disease and decay, it might be suggested that you have them removed.

Another reason for taking out the wisdom teeth is that there is just not enough room. If there isn’t enough room for the tooth to erupt, the teeth stay in the bone totally or partially. Both full and partial impaction can have negative side effects. If the teeth are fully impacted, there is a chance that a cyst can form around the tooth, causing damage to the bone, nerves, and the other teeth. If the tooth is partially impacted, there is a greater chance for infection and decay to occur.

The bottom line is that we recommend making an informed decision about the wisdom teeth rather than just letting nature take its course. Having the wisdom teeth removed around age 17-18 might be easiest for both the patient and the oral surgeon since the roots are not fully formed. We’re happy to discuss the situation with you and help you with your decision.