Do You Have to Get Your Wisdom Teeth Out?
Sometimes it may feel like wisdom teeth are simply there to cause you endless grief. An evolutionary hang-up, they were vital for our ancestors to chew tough plants and meat and act more effectively and as insurance for faster wear. As we have evolved and built good oral hygiene habits, as well as utensils and cooking methods, wisdom teeth have become largely unnecessary. Sometimes, they can even pose a risk to our oral health. Let us have a look at why you may have to get your wisdom teeth out.
Why problems can arise with wisdom teeth
You would have noticed that when it comes to teeth, you have sharp ones at the front – these are used for tearing and you have flatter ones at the back – used for grinding, called ‘Molars’. Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars, that erupt right behind all the other teeth, one for each corner of the mouth. Some people acquire all four wisdom teeth, others fewer, and some end up having none at all.
Typically, the wisdom teeth come through between the ages of 17 and 25 and their arrival can cause issues. For most people, their jaw has finished growing around the age of 18. Because wisdom teeth usually come through slightly later than this, often there isn’t enough room for them.
Decay is a significant cause of why you may need to get your wisdom teeth extracted. Sometimes wisdom teeth become ‘impacted’, which basically means they’re stuck below the surface of the gum. They can also be ‘partially impacted’, which means they haven’t come out of the gums fully. In this case, there is a strong likelihood of bacteria getting trapped and causing the tooth to decay. Due to their tricky position right at the back of the mouth, they often don’t get much treatment from a toothbrush either, creating the perfect storm.
Occasionally, wisdom teeth can come through at an odd angle, pressing into the molar immediately in front. Cleaning this area effectively is incredibly challenging. In this case, there is a chance of not only losing the wisdom tooth, but the molar next to it as well! The more you delay the process of extraction, the more bacteria that will build up at the problem site.
Due to the lack of room for wisdom teeth, they can often come through at odd angles, pressing up against their neighbours and causing misalignment, overcrowding and, ultimately, causing pain and discomfort. With the help of x-rays, we can tell from an early stage the route your wisdom teeth are taking. If it looks like their path will trigger issues, it is always advisable to have them extracted before they start knocking your other teeth out of whack.
We also advise having them pulled out after orthodontic work. Braces are used to straighten teeth and essentially spread them out more evenly. At the end of the process, there is usually less room in the mouth for wisdom teeth than there was earlier. If we do not remove the wisdom teeth at this stage, it is likely their development will undo all the good orthodontic work.
What can happen if I don’t have my wisdom teeth removed?
If nothing is wrong with your wisdom teeth, then you can keep them for life without an issue. However, if problems arise and you do not have them looked into, you may end up losing more than just your back molars.
Decay spreads. As we noted before, if one tooth becomes infected, other teeth around it can too. Losing a wisdom tooth is not a big deal; we do not ‘need’ them. But if they are decaying and left untreated, you could end up losing the twelve-year-old molar next to it as well – and this tooth is extremely useful.
Poor oral hygiene can be the cause of many complications later in life. It is crucial that we do our best to keep the teeth we have from an early age.
Misaligned, overlapping, and overcrowded teeth can also trigger issues. It is much harder to effectively clean between teeth that are jammed against one another. If we cannot remove the bacteria that builds up in between these teeth, decay will set in. Once again, the risk with not removing wisdom teeth is that you will end up losing healthy, more vital, teeth as well.
So, do you have to get your wisdom teeth out? The best way to find out is by chatting to your dentist. If you are worried about the impact your wisdom teeth might have, book an appointment with our friendly team now.