Wisdom tooth extraction has become a rite of passage for many teens and young adults. At some point, most will go into the oral surgeon, come out looking like a chipmunk, recover at home with ice cream and soup, and then carry on with four fewer molars. But what are wisdom teeth, exactly, and why do they need to come out? Wouldn’t having more teeth be better? Do you actually have to get yours taken out? This week, we’ll answer these questions and more.
The History of Wisdom Teeth
Your wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the larger teeth furthest back in your mouth. About a hundred million years ago, prehistoric men had a large jaw with room for all 32 teeth. However, as humans began to walk upright, developed smaller jaws, and no longer needed additional teeth for grinding up rough foliage, these molars became outmoded. In fact, scientists recently determined that a woman who lived 15,000 years ago in the Magdalenian period struggled with improperly erupting wisdom teeth.
The Latin word for these sometimes-troublesome teeth is “dens sapientiae,” or “wisdom teeth,” because they typically come in during early adulthood, when a person has gained more knowledge of the world. Most people start noticing their wisdom teeth growing in between the ages of 17 and 25. Typically, there are four (one in each corner of the mouth), but some people have none while others have five or more.
Problems They Can Pose
There are several issues wisdom teeth can pose, depending on the structure of your jaw and your oral hygiene.
- Most often, wisdom teeth become problematic because they are impacted, which means there is not enough space in the jaw or mouth for them to erupt properly. This could be painful and cause structural issues with your jawbone.
- You wisdom teeth might partially erupt, breaking through your gums at an odd angle. This could crate pockets in the gums that can cause infection and make proper dental hygiene very difficult, increasing your risk for decay.
- Even if they come in at an appropriate angle, they might crowd other teeth and interfere with orthodontia.
- Since they are so far into the back of your mouth, brushing and flossing these teeth can be much more time-consuming or difficult. However, if these teeth develop decay or infection, most dentists recommend extracting them rather than trying to treat the condition, since placing a crown or performing a root canal on a third molar is a complex process.
- In some cases, difficulty with eruption could cause a cyst, a fluid filled sac, to form around the wisdom tooth, which could harm your teeth roots and facial bones if left untreated.
If you are experiencing discomfort with your wisdom teeth, Dr. Flanagan can assess them to determine if they need to be removed.
Can You Keep Yours?
Since humans no longer need wisdom teeth to properly chew and digest food, most dentists recommend removing them if they pose any risks to the rest of your mouth. However, you may be able to keep your wisdom teeth if:
- There is room in your jaw for them
- They can properly erupt
- They do not put your other teeth in jeopardy
- You are willing to maintain excellent dental hygiene in these areas of your mouth
Most dentists and oral surgeons suggest removing wisdom teeth preventively, before they become an issue. However, some argue that the teeth can stay as long as they do not interfere with your oral health. For more information on this complicated issue, read this Washington Post article. If your wisdom teeth have come in properly and you do not want to get them extracted, you should be even more conscientious about maintaining good dental hygiene and coming in for biannual cleanings.
Since most patients who need their wisdom teeth extracted are high school or college students, Dr. Flanagan recommends that, if you do need to get them taken out, you do so over a holiday break, such as the upcoming winter vacation. This will give you extra time to recuperate at home so you can go back to school with confidence in your oral health.
Be Wise With Your Teeth
Depending on your particular circumstances, you may or may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed. However, if they are bothering you, you need to see a dentist as soon as possible. Concerns about extraction are not a good reason to put off taking care of your teeth. To learn more about your wisdom teeth or schedule an appointment, contact Cindy Flanagan, D.D.S.
Original Source: http://flanagansmiles.com/oral-surgery/get-wisdom-teeth/