Why you may need your wisdom teeth removed (and how it works)

Wisdom teeth, medically known as third molars, often bear a reputation akin to mysterious old sages. They appear during our late teens or early twenties, hence the name ‘wisdom’ — an age when one is theoretically wiser than their tumultuous early teenage years. But more often, the arrival of these teeth raises the pressing question: “Do I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?”

The third molars are located at the back corners of the mouth, both on the top and the bottom. They’re the last set of molars that develop, but not everyone’s jaws are designed to accommodate these late bloomers comfortably. As a result, the emergence of wisdom teeth can sometimes pose oral health challenges.

Why consider wisdom tooth removal? 

The decision to remove the wisdom teeth depends on several factors:

  • Impaction: This is perhaps the most common reason for a wisdom tooth removal. An impacted tooth doesn’t have enough room to emerge or grow naturally. As a result, it may grow at an angle, sometimes even horizontally. This misalignment can push against other teeth, leading to pain and bite problems. 
  • Pain and discomfort: Even if wisdom teeth aren’t impacted, they can cause significant discomfort, especially when they’re breaking through the gums.
  • Gum infections: The location of wisdom teeth makes them a little tricky to clean. As a result, the area around the emerging tooth can become a haven for bacteria, leading to gum infections, swelling, and pain.
  • Cavities: The same difficulty in cleaning wisdom teeth can lead to cavities or even decay in adjacent teeth.
  • Cysts: Sometimes, a sac next to the wisdom tooth becomes filled with fluid, forming a cyst. This can harm the roots of nearby teeth, bones, and nerves.

Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Simply put, no. Having your wisdom teeth removed is mostly based on the possibility of complications and the existing health of the teeth. Some people never need their wisdom teeth removed because they align correctly, and the gum tissue is healthy. However, for some, even if the teeth emerge correctly, they may still cause problems later.

Routine dental visits are crucial for this reason because they allow us to monitor the growth and emergence of your wisdom teeth. We take regular X-rays to assess your alignment, and if there’s a potential for future issues or problems to persist, we may suggest removal.

When is the best time to remove my wisdom teeth?

Most dental professionals recommend removing wisdom teeth before they’re fully formed. The extraction process is less complicated in younger individuals, typically in their late teens or early twenties, because the roots aren’t fully developed, and the bone is less dense. As one gets older, the removal can become more challenging, with a longer recovery period. 

What is the recovery process like?

Recovery from wisdom teeth extraction usually only takes a few days, but it means taking things easy and sticking to soft foods. There might be some pain and swelling, but pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can manage these symptoms. Proper oral hygiene, which includes rinsing the mouth with salt water, can help keep the extraction sites clean and free from infection.

The story of wisdom teeth is a tale as old as time. While they once served our ancestors who had a much tougher diet (think raw plants and meat), they’re somewhat useless in today’s age, often causing more trouble than they’re worth. That said, not every narrative of wisdom teeth is about woes and removal. Some people live their entire lives without any hiccups. 

Whether you’re feeling the stirrings of these molars or wondering about future implications, keeping an open line of communication with your dentist is essential. Regular check-ups will ensure that the chapter on your wisdom teeth, whether they stay or go, is written with the best health outcomes in mind.

If you need to get your wisdom teeth looked at or removed, book an appointment with Smith and van Lierop Dentistry now!