Wisdom teeth are actually third molars. Tucked away in the furthest reaches of your mouth, they are easy to forget. Except when they are erupting or aching.
Do your wisdom teeth need to be removed? If so, when and why?
- Wisdom teeth are usually the last ones to erupt. Sometimes they never do!
- To erupt normally, there must be enough space at the back of the jaws to accommodate them. For many people who have all their other permanent teeth eruption never happens.
- Lower jaw growth occurs mostly at the back. If growth is inadequate, wisdom teeth will remain impacted.
- It is rare to have the maximum possible of 32 teeth in the mouth (including wisdom teeth) and them also be optimally aligned and functional.
- Teeth that have not completed eruption within a reasonable time frame are called “impacted” if they are still completely submerged under the gum, and “semi-impacted” if they partially pierce through the gum.
- Research suggests that extraction is not essential unless there are problems (pain, infection, damage to other teeth, etc.).
Reasons to have wisdom teeth removed:
- Pain, infection, have caries, are difficult to clean, have a severe malposition.
- If a tooth is “semi-impacted” because it presents a higher risk of infection and decay in the mid or long term.
- To solve a problem already affecting the wisdom teeth or to prevent the development of pathologies e,g, cysts, tumours, resorption (wear) of adjacent teeth.
- For orthodontic reasons, e.g. to allow braces to ameliorate dental crowding.
What happens if I keep my wisdom teeth?
If your wisdom teeth are asymptomatic and impacted then it can be fine to keep them. However, have regular check ups and do not ignore them.
- Radiographic assessments (every 3-4 years) are recommended to detect any onset of potential problems.
- Symptoms can occur long after the appearance of a problem, by which time significant damage is often already present and irreversible.
- Ensure wisdom teeth remain uninfected and symptom free so that they can remain indefinitely in the mouth.
If you still have your wisdom teeth Dr John will tell you how they are doing and advise on how to keep them healthy.