Am I Too Old to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
While most patients that have their wisdom teeth removed are under the age of 25, older adults, even AARP card carrying members, can need these sometimes troublesome third molars extracted.
“While most dentists favor removing them at an early age, not everyone experiences issues when they’re young. Instead, oral problems related to our wisdom teeth can sometimes crop up as we age,” says WebMD.
In fact, a study of routine and surgical extractions of third molars performed by general and specialist dentists of the public oral health services in the city of Helsinki in 2013-2014 found patients ranging in ages from 10 to 99!
So, for those who might ask the question: “Am I too old to have my wisdom teeth removed?”. The answer is ‘No!”
Wisdom Teeth Arrival (and Removal) a Rite of Passage
For many, the arrival of wisdom teeth can be a rite of passage as these late arriving third molars, known informally as “wisdom teeth”, typically fully arrive in the mouth between the age of 13 and 25.
While not everybody will get these wisdom teeth, their arrival before the age of 30 may make them seem like an issue solely for Millennials and Gen Z, but Baby Boomers and other older folks that did not have their third molars removed may have issues with them as they age.
When third molars arrive, dentists use the term “erupted” and when they are prevented from fully erupting, typically due to space limitations in the mouth, they are called “impacted”.
Impaction often leads to extraction, but some people will have their wisdom teeth come in just fine, though issues can arise later in life.
“Wisdom tooth-related problems can cause more damage over time to areas such as nearby teeth, gums, jawbone, or nerves,” says WebMD.
Reasons Why Adults Needs Their Wisdom Teeth Removed
If you are older and still have your wisdom teeth, you may never face any issues with them, but there are some sure signs that you may need to have them removed.
At Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery we tell patients to look for signs of pain, infection and/or decay when addressing wisdom teeth removal in adults:
- Pain: That pain you feel anywhere in your body is trying to tell something and your mouth is no different. Pressure on tooth nerves and cavity formation in your wisdom teeth can result in pain and prompt their removal. Once the wisdom teeth are removed, the pain will subside.
- Infection: When wisdom teeth do not fully erupt through the gumline, they leave pockets that can become a host to bacteria, plaque, and food debris. These areas can become infected. Signs of these infections may include pain, swelling in the face and jaw, bad breath or taste, and difficulty chewing. Wisdom teeth removal may be the best option to halt these infections.
- Decay: Wisdom teeth can be the toughest area for adults to properly maintain good oral hygiene of brushing and flossing because of their remote location. Resulting decay can lead to cavities and some dentists will recommend removal of wisdom teeth versus having these cavities filled in.
- Pain was the most common symptom (35.3 percent)
- Swelling (21.7 percent)
- Discomfort from food impaction (3.6 percent)
- Purulent discharge (3 percent)
Factors that your dentist will look for in older adults with wisdom teeth:
- Damage to surrounding teeth
- Overcrowding or shifting teeth
- Gum diseases present
- Cysts that have formed
Every Patient and Every Case is Unique
There is a lot of debate between dentists and oral surgeons when it comes to wisdom teeth but one thing that all can agree on is that every patient and every case is unique.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) “Evidence-Based Management of Third Molar Teeth” white paper that decisions regarding surgery for wisdom teeth must consider:
- Careful examination of your mouth
- Radiographic examination involving x-rays or a CT-scan
- Consultation between patient, dentist, and oral maxillofacial surgeon with a balanced discussion of the benefits and risks of retention versus benefits and risks of operative management.
After consultation, the following actions can be taken:
- Extract the complete tooth
- Partially remove the tooth or coronectomy, surgical procedure that removes the crown of the tooth and leaves the root and associated nerve complex.
- Active surveillance – observe the tooth over time for changes
When third molar extraction is done at an older age, the surgery can be more complex because bone density increases as you get older and healing time may be lengthened. There can also be an increased risk of post-surgical complications.
Contact Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery today to consider all your options.