Ready to wise up and find out once and for all — do your wisdom teeth really need to be removed? Our Escondido dentists are here to answer all your burning wisdom teeth questions. Here in our office, we offer wisdom teeth extractions for teenagers and adults — but we don’t recommend extracting wisdom teeth for everyone!
Keep reading to learn more.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the ones in the very back of your mouth and your third set of molars (the toughest, widest teeth that help you grind food).
Despite their name, wisdom teeth won’t make you any smarter (darn). These molars get their name because they’re typically the last teeth to come in — usually around age 17-21. And although you can get up to four of these third molars (two on top, two on bottom), not everyone will! It’s very common to naturally be missing one or more of your wisdom teeth.
Why some people don’t have any wisdom teeth
About 20-25% of people are born with 1-3 wisdom teeth and up to 35% of people don’t have any wisdom teeth. Why? We’re not totally sure, but many point to the fact that we no longer need these teeth to survive.
Prehistoric diets consisted of hard-to-chew plants and meats, so it’s believed that our jaws used to be naturally larger in order to fit 32 teeth. Now that humans have better ways of chewing and digesting our food, humans have less need of and room for wisdom teeth — so many people don’t develop them at all.
Why are wisdom teeth often removed?
You’re more likely to have issues with your wisdom teeth than with any other teeth. Why?
Because of the size of your jaw!
Like we mentioned above, human jaws have evolved to be smaller than they used to be. For many people, there just isn’t room for wisdom teeth to erupt normally from the gum line. This is referred to as impaction — and it can cause a world of pain and dental health problems.
What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
Impacted wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally. There are two types of impacted wisdom teeth:
- Partially impacted — When the wisdom tooth partially emerges so that some of the crown is visible above the gum line.
- Full implicated — When the wisdom tooth never breaks through the gums.
A partially or fully impacted tooth may grow:
- Horizontal to the other teeth, as if it’s lying down in the jawbone
- Straight up or down but remain trapped within the jawbone
- At an angle toward the next tooth
- At an angle toward the back of the mouth
What happens if you never get your wisdom teeth removed?
If your wisdom teeth are growing irregularly, they can cause several types of problems:
- Damage to other teeth. If a wisdom tooth is pushing against a second molar, it can cause damage and increase the risk of infection. This pressure can also cause crowding and increase your need for orthodontic treatment.
- Decay. Wisdom teeth that are pushing against a second molar can cause decay in that tooth. Partially impacted wisdom teeth also tend to be at higher risk of decay because they’re difficult to properly clean.
- Gum disease. Again, because wisdom teeth (especially partially impacted wisdom teeth) are difficult to clean, it increases the risk of developing gum disease.
- Cysts. Each wisdom tooth develops in a sac within your jawbone. In some cases, this sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage your jawbone, teeth, and nerves.
All of these issues can cause another problem — pain! We never want your teeth to cause you any pain or discomfort. But when a wisdom tooth isn’t growing in properly, it usually doesn’t go unnoticed for long.
At what age should you have wisdom teeth taken out?
If you’re young and it’s still unclear how your wisdom teeth are growing, we may recommend a wait-and-see approach. However, keep in mind that if you plan on eventually removing your wisdom teeth, the younger the better.
When you’re young, your jawbone is softer. This makes the removal of your wisdom teeth much easier and the healing process much faster. Additionally, the longer you wait, the more problems could potentially develop and the more difficult the extraction may become.
For example, if a wisdom tooth is pushing against your second molar and causing decay, leaving it for too long may cause the need for a root canal in the second molar. You also could lose the tooth completely.
So, should I remove my wisdom teeth?
It all comes down to whether or not you have enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to erupt normally. When evaluating your dental health, we usually won’t recommend removing wisdom teeth if:
- They’re growing straight up and out of your gums
- They’re not crowding or pushing on your second molars
- You are able to properly clean and floss the area
However, if x-rays show that you’ll likely experience future issues with your wisdom teeth (or if they’re already causing problems), we’ll be more likely to recommend removal. Additionally, if you’re facing a complex situation — such as severely impacted wisdom teeth — we may refer you to an oral surgeon to ensure the best possible outcome.
If removing your wisdom teeth is recommended, remember that you’re not alone. Around 5 million people have their wisdom teeth removed every year. Thanks to advanced dental technology, having your wisdom teeth removed is much easier and more comfortable than many people think.
Where should I get my wisdom teeth removed?
Like any other dental health situation, there is never a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s important that you choose a dentist who will take an individualized approach and helps you make the best possible choice for your health and wellness.
At TLC Escondido Dental, Drs. Reyes & Madrigal are dedicated to providing an easy-to-understand, personalized approach to wisdom teeth. We’d love to answer any questions you have and create a treatment plan that’s right for you.