We hear many different questions, thoughts, and personal beliefs from people concerning their wisdom teeth and thought it would a great opportunity to address this topic on our blog. Whether you still have your wisdom teeth or had them removed years ago this information can be very useful in understanding the truth about these unique teeth amongst the many different popularly held beliefs.
“All wisdom teeth need to be removed as soon as possible.”
While it is true for some people that they need to have their wisdom teeth removed as soon as possible it is also true that some people never need to have their wisdom teeth removed. If the wisdom teeth are properly positioned within the jaw and are kept free of decay and gum disease there is no reason at all to have them removed.
“My wisdom teeth caused my front teeth to be crowded.”
A review completed in 2012 showed the occurrence of crowding of the front teeth occurs in equal numbers for those who have had their wisdom teeth removed vs. people who did not have them removed. The wisdom teeth are not bulldozer teeth that have the ability to push all of the teeth in front of them and cause crowding. Our teeth have a natural tendency to drift towards the middle as a result of the physics of our bite being applied to our teeth. This drift is often first seen around the time that the wisdom teeth first erupt and naturally are associated as the cause of the crowding. However, after many years of research it can be seen that this is just a coincidence.
“You have to be put under general anesthesia for the wisdom teeth to be removed.”
For many people, the removal of wisdom teeth are no different than any other tooth in the mouth and do not require any different procedures. For those with complicated extractions, such as teeth impacted underneath the gum tissue and bone that will require additional techniques it is beneficial to be under general anesthesia. However, for most wisdom teeth they can easily be removed without the additional risks and costs associated with being sedated. Of course in any tooth removal the use of local anesthesia to numb the area completely should be used.
“My wisdom teeth don’t bother me so I don’t need to have them removed.”
This statement can be true for many people; however it is not always the best way to approach a potentially serious health risk. At least once a month we receive an emergency call from an individual in need of immediate care due to pain from their wisdom teeth. In almost every instance the patient had been told previously by a dentist at some point in their life that they needed to have their wisdom teeth removed, but elected not to have it done because it never hurt them. Your wisdom teeth are not going to warn you before they begin hurting and can occur at the most inconvenient times like the night before a wedding or while on vacation which can seriously interfere with your plans. Also, waiting till it hurts can make it difficult to numb the area as well as complicate the healing process due to already increased inflammation and possible infection.
“How do I know if my wisdom teeth need to be removed?”
The only way to know is to have an evaluation with your dentist that includes a panographic x-ray. The wisdom teeth need to be evaluated for the presence of any decay or gum disease as well as be evaluated for the risk factors that could lead to disease in those areas. Once this evaluation is completed it also should be determined if these problems can be corrected without removing the teeth or is removal the best long term choice.
Panographic x-ray displaying impacted wisdom teeth.