When and Why are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
When children or young adults reach their teenage years to early twenties, their wisdom teeth (3rd molars) become more fully developed and may begin to erupt from the gums. The problem that many face is there isn’t adequate room for the teeth to fit. The resulting impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems with the jaw and adjacent teeth, which is why we typically recommend removal of all wisdom teeth at a young age.
When the wisdom teeth do not have enough room to fully erupt, the gums can experience chronic pain. The tissue that partially covers the exposed tooth creates a trap for extra food and bacteria to gather and proliferate. The painful condition that results is called pericoronitis and can only be definitively treated through extraction of the wisdom teeth affected. If you only try to remove the extra tissue, it will usually return in the future and the same problem will persist.
There is also a concern that impacted wisdom teeth can lead to problems with adjacent teeth. If the tooth erupts horizontally into the tooth in front, a deep pocket can be formed. This may become a bacteria trap and decay may start on the tooth or even the root. In some extreme cases, the tooth may be non-restorable and may also need to be removed. There was previously a thought that a sideways wisdom tooth could also cause crowding amongst the surrounding teeth. However, more recent studies have found that the presence of wisdom teeth do not push the other teeth together. We now know that may happen with or without the wisdom teeth.
If wisdom teeth remain impacted in the jaw bone, you risk developing a cyst in the bone surrounding the tooth. Cysts can destroy bone, tooth roots, and even cause issues with nearby nerves. The larger the cyst becomes, the more invasive the surgery will be to remove the problem area and the greater the chances of other complications.
So when is the best age to get wisdom teeth removed? We believe the earlier they are extracted, the better. At a younger age, the jaw bone isn’t as dense and the roots of the wisdom teeth are not fully formed. This decreases the odds of complications and makes the healing process a little faster. In many cases, we recommend seeing an oral surgeon for the extractions because of their expertise with wisdom teeth extractions and their familiarity with conscious sedation. These factors help make the experience as comfortable as possible.
Like anything else, extenuating circumstances exist where there may be some different recommendations regarding how to treat the wisdom teeth. If other teeth have been lost or the orthodontist has created room the wisdom teeth, they may be retained. By consulting with the dentist, oral surgeon, and even the orthodontist, we can help find the best treatment for you or your children’s teeth.