Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Necessary?

Your dentist says you need to have your wisdom teeth taken out. But they don’t hurt, you say, so why remove them?

These days, oral surgery to remove wisdom teeth is a standard practice – almost a rite of passage for young adults. It’s not always necessary, though.

We recommend removing wisdom teeth when:

– They cause gum problems. Impacted wisdom teeth crowd other teeth and cause pain and swelling, especially when only they only partially erupt (push themselves up through jawbone and gum tissue into the mouth). Partially erupted (impacted) teeth may lead to infections, cysts or tumors in the gum tissue or jawbone. These are serious problems that negatively affect your overall health. Incompletely erupted teeth can create deep pockets around themselves where bacteria and food can collect and infection can develop.

– Their growth can cause damage to neighboring teeth. Deep pockets around incompletely erupted teeth create areas where bacterial plaque, calculus and food collect. Cavities on tooth roots may develop in these areas. If cavities do develop on the roots of the neighboring teeth, extraction of the wisdom teeth and the neighboring teeth will likely be required.

– The position of the tooth hinders jaw movement or affects chewing function in any way. Does the wisdom tooth scrape the soft tissues in your mouth? Does it cause you to bite your cheek? Does food get caught under the gum tissue around the wisdom tooth and cause swollen and/or painful gums that you bite while chewing? These are concerns that need to be addressed to keep you chewing your food well and facilitating digestion.

– It’s clear they won’t fully erupt and they are either: (1) moving in the direction of neighboring tooth roots or (2) will never come into contact with an opposing tooth. Wisdom teeth do move within the jawbone as they attempt to erupt. If they move in the direction of adjacent tooth roots and put pressure on them, the roots will resorb. This will permanently damage the adjacent tooth and will require either surgery on the affected roots or tooth extraction. Alternatively, if it’s clear that the wisdom tooth will not come into contact with its opposing tooth, it is functionally useless and the risks of keeping it can often outweigh the benefits of keeping it. Conversely, if your wisdom tooth is impacted and not causing harm in any way, it’s best to leave it in place.

– Now that you know when you should remove wisdom teeth, read on for reasons why you shouldn’t.

We don’t recommend removing wisdom teeth when they are:

– Healthy

– Fully erupted

– Positioned correctly and not overly crowding adjacent teeth

– Functioning properly

There’s nothing wrong with leaving wisdom teeth if you regularly visit a dentist and have jaw x-rays. In this case, you can learn about a possible problem (improper wisdom tooth growth) in advance and, in order to avoid it, have surgery to remove it. Doctors recommend doing this as soon as possible because after you turn 25, all the bone tissues are finally formed, so the teeth are more difficult to remove, and the tissues heal more slowly.

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