Many people are having their wisdom teeth removed. Many dentists also suggest doing it, sometimes “just in case”. If you have been asking yourself whether it is really necessary for you, here are a few things to keep in mind before considering a procedure.
Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars in the dental arch. Most people have wisdom teeth, but it is possible for some of the third molars to never grow. It is also possible to have more than four wisdom teeth. In many cases, wisdom teeth are invisible because they have not erupted through the gums, so they can be seen only on X-rays. They usually grow between the ages of 17 and 25 (sometimes even later). Adults can have a maximum of 32 teeth. However, nowadays people often do not have jaws that are large enough for all 32 teeth – we usually have room for only 28. Therefore, if all the other teeth are present and healthy, there is not enough space for the wisdom teeth to grow properly.
By examining your mouth, your dentist will be able to inform you about your condition. If you have three permanent molars in each dental quadrant, it means you have wisdom teeth. However, if the wisdom teeth are impacted (not fully erupt) under the tissue, you will need the X-ray to determine if you have wisdom teeth and in which phase of development they are. Sometimes, erupting wisdom teeth can produce uncomfortable pressure and pain in your mouth because they do not have enough space and cannot grow normally.
Wisdom teeth removal is recommended if:
- They can cause pain because they are trapped in your jawbone or gums.
- They press against your other teeth because they come in at the wrong angle.
- Your mouth has no room for new teeth.
- You have cavities or gum disease because you are not able to reach your wisdom teeth with your toothbrush or dental floss.
- Your experience changes in the wisdom teeth area, such as extensive tooth decay, gum disease or gum swelling, damage to nearby teeth, repeated inflammation and infection of gingival tissue behind the lower last tooth, cysts (fluid-filled sacs).
- You have difficulty breathing and swallowing.
Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common dental procedures. It is a minor surgery where the tissue and bone around the wisdom tooth are removed and the tooth extracted. The tissue is then closed with several stitches which are removed a week later. Wisdom teeth removal is always performed with local anesthesia or conscious sedation (the choice is individual), so you will not experience any discomfort. The surgery should take cca. 45 minutes.
However, not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. When a wisdom tooth erupts through the tissue without any damage to the nearby teeth, the wisdom teeth can remain in the mouth. You only have to brush, floss, and clean them regularly. Some people experience slight discomfort as wisdom teeth come through, but the pain is temporary and disappears once the tooth is fully grown.
To sum up, you do not have to have your wisdom teeth pulled if they are:
- Healthy and decay-free.
- Completely erupted.
- Positioned correctly and biting properly with their opposite teeth.
- Easily approachable, i.e. can be brushed and flossed normally.
If wisdom teeth surgery is not necessary in your case, just make sure you take care of your wisdom teeth in a proper manner with an adequate dental hygiene. However, if wisdom teeth removal is inevitable, you should not be afraid. As we already mentioned, it is one of the most common dental procedures. It may cause some swelling but as soon as the tissue is healed, everything will go back to normal and you will experience the benefits of wisdom teeth removal: you will no longer have the pain or the risk of endangering adjacent teeth and your mouth will feel less crowded and more comfortable.