Have you ever considered that teeth serve as milestones in life? Much is made of the appearance of a child's first tooth, and then approximately five years later when that tooth loosens and comes out in preparation for the emergence of its permanent successor. Many families choose to celebrate that loss with the custom of the tooth fairy, which can be expensive if she returns each time another tooth comes out. Not as much attention is paid when the last four teeth of the thirty-two permanent teeth make their way through the gums — unless they cause problems, which unfortunately is the case for many people. And if you are one of these individuals, you may find yourself facing the decision of whether to have your wisdom teeth removed or to just let them stay and see what happens.
If They Stay
If wisdom teeth continue to grow into place there may not be any problem. But the pivotal words in this sentence are grow into place. And in more cases than not, at least one of these final teeth has a mind of its own. It may
- • Come in at an odd angle, making it difficult to floss between it and its neighboring molar, thus providing a comfy place for bacteria grow. In this case you can expect to experience cavities and gum disease down the road.
- • Emerge through the gum, but only partially, creating an incubation space for bacteria to grow. The resulting infection will could lead to pain, swelling, and a stiff jaw.
- • Bully its way in, resulting in damage to, or crowding of adjacent teeth. It may even lead to additional crooked teeth towards the front of the mouth, negating the work of years of orthodontia.
- • Give up the fight just below the gum line, or in other words become impacted. Impaction can result in the formation of a cyst which can damage the roots of neighboring teeth and even destroy supporting bones.
Should you think these are isolated cases, take a look at the post in the informative Northwest Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery blog at texasoralsurgery.com titled What Age Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed. It reports the opposite is true. A study conducted by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons found that 2/3 of the people who elect to let their wisdom teeth stay experience at least one of the above conditions and end up having one or more wisdom teeth extracted sometime during their lives.
If They Go
Even if wisdom teeth seem to come in without any apparent problems, a visit to your dentist is a good idea. He or she can take X-rays to make sure nothing untoward is going on beneath the gums, and as the blog referenced above advises, the best time to do so is between the ages of 17 and 20. At this stage in life, the roots of the wisdom teeth are not yet fully formed; so should the X-rays reveal problems, it will be easier to extract them than if you wait for them to become more firmly ensconced in the jaw bones. Furthermore, at this stage of life having wisdom teeth pulled out should be less traumatic since the period book ended between the late teens and early 20s is a time of life when bodies tend to have a quicker recovery period.
Either way, the decision of whether to keep your wisdom teeth or have them pulled out is one best made after a discussion with your dentist or oral surgeon.
If you are considering wisdom teeth removal surgery, please contact Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery to make a consultation appointment.