These days, removing wisdom teeth is standard practice and almost serves as a rite of passage for young adults, but is it necessary? For many young people, oral surgery to remove the final four teeth is needed, but for some it is not. Which category you fall into depends on a few different factors.
When wisdom teeth can stay
The wisdom teeth are the third molars in the very back of the mouth. While those teeth once served a purpose — to help human ancestors grind tough plant tissue — evolution has rendered them useless. Moreover, evolution has also resulted in a smaller skull and shorter jawline that is unable to fit all 32 teeth. For this reason, most dentists recommend that the third molars be removed. However, in rare instances, a dentist may feel it is safe for a patient to keep the wisdom teeth:
- The wisdom teeth have fully erupted.
- The mouth and all the teeth in it are completely healthy.
- The third molars are in the correct position and do not hinder one’s bite.
- The patient is able to clean all teeth properly.
In most cases, however, the third molars do not have room to grow properly, which can cause dental complications.
When extraction is necessary
If the mouth does not have room to accommodate the wisdom teeth, a dentist may recommend extraction. If not extracted, the teeth may grow in crooked, or even horizontal. Below is a list of problems that may prompt a dental professional to recommend extraction.
The teeth remain completely hidden in the gums
Many times, the third molars do not have room to emerge at all. When this happens, the teeth become impacted, or trapped, within the jaw. People with impacted teeth are at risk of infection or of developing a cyst that can cause further damage to nearby tooth roots or compromise bone support.
The teeth emerge only partially
Teeth in the back of the mouth are often difficult to see and therefore hard to clean properly. When wisdom teeth emerge only partially, they can create a pocket that attracts bacteria. This bacterium can lead to oral infection and gum disease.
The teeth become crowded
Many people do not have room in the mouth to accommodate the third molars. When the teeth do emerge, the other teeth may shift out of place. In many cases, wisdom teeth cause damage to surrounding teeth.
There is no right age for a person to have wisdom teeth extracted. However, most dentists recommend that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 undergo the surgery. Extracting the teeth sooner rather than later often results in less pain and shorter healing time, as the roots and bone have not fully formed. In many cases, dentists will recommend removing the roots of the third molars before the teeth even have the chance to develop.
To determine if wisdom tooth extraction is necessary, patients should consult with a dental professional. Schedule a visit with your dentist to learn more.
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