Do you really need your wisdom teeth removed?

The topic of wisdom teeth comes up a lot at our practice.

Typically, parents come in with their teenagers because they’re curious about having their children’s wisdom teeth removed. They’ve heard that wisdom teeth can cause a number of problems and want them removed as soon as possible.

The other scenario is an adult who enters the practice for the first time. They still have their wisdom teeth and are nervous that I will want to remove them.

In both scenarios, treatment depends on the patient’s unique case, which begs the question: “Do you really need your wisdom teeth removed?”

The short answer to this is no, not everyone will need their wisdom teeth removed during their lifetime. Some people are born without wisdom teeth, while others may have only one or two. Some people may also have wisdom teeth that emerge without any problems and line up perfectly behind their second molars.

Wisdom Teeth Stock photo

The growth trajectory of some wisdom teeth can present complications, making removal necessary.

The reason so many people need their wisdom teeth removed is because of the complications they can present as the teeth begin to grow. For instance, the mouth can be too crowded for the wisdom teeth to grow, causing them to become impacted and have nowhere to go.

They can also grow at an angle and cause damage to the surrounding molars, jaw pain and bite problems. Partially impacted wisdom teeth also present a risk of cavities and infection because they cannot be cleaned properly.

The best treatment for younger patients

For patients under the age of 24, the best strategy is to remove their wisdom teeth if it appears they will cause future problems. By this age, it should be clear to see (1) if the patient has wisdom teeth, (2) if they have room to grow in and how they will grow in, and (3) how they will impact the rest of the mouth.

If it seems like the wisdom teeth have room to erupt without complication, then often I will recommend that we wait. I can monitor their trajectory during regular dental visits and make a judgment call when their path becomes clear.

The best treatment for adult patients

If you’re over the age of 24 and your wisdom teeth have a low risk of infection, the best strategy is to keep them. At this point, your dentist should be able to tell if your wisdom teeth are fully or partially impacted and what your risk of infection will be.

It’s also important to assess the risk of removing the wisdom teeth. A high-risk removal is a tooth that is so deeply imbedded that there’s risk of jaw fracture. In some cases, the wisdom teeth may also be in close proximity to the mandibular nerve and removal may cause nerve damage. In both cases, removal is only recommended if there are obvious signs of infection.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth? If so, have them checked by your dentist regularly to ensure that they don’t cause complications. Call our office at (813) 689-4226 to schedule a consultation today.

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