Wisdom teeth are molars that appear for most people when they are a young adult. Historically, human jaws were much larger than they are today. Likely because of dietary changes, our jaws have become smaller — too small for an extra set of molars.
It’s become standard practice to surgically remove wisdom teeth, a sort of rite of passage into adulthood. But is it really necessary to remove these teeth?
In many cases, the answer is yes. If left alone, wisdom teeth can cause serious damage to your teeth and jaw. So, even if you aren’t feeling any pain from your new molars, there could still be something wrong that can only be found with an X-Ray.
Dentists often decide to remove wisdom teeth early to prevent any problems from developing later on. It can actually be “unwise” to wait to remove your wisdom teeth. As you age, your teeth become harder and more difficult to remove. So, if you hold on to your new molars too long, the removal surgery could create even more problems, from broken teeth and excessive bleeding to severe numbness and loss of jaw motion.
Problems wisdom teeth can cause:
Damage to other teeth.
When your wisdom teeth come in, they may grow in a way that pushes your other teeth around. This can create tooth pain and bite problems.
Cysts may form around the new molars. If these aren’t treated quickly, they can hollow out your jaw and cause nerve damage.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted — or stuck underneath your jaw — it can crowd your other teeth as it continues to grow. In such situations, you may even have to get extra treatment to straighten your other teeth.
Oddly enough, wisdom teeth issues can even lead to extra sinus pressure, pain, and congestion. Because the wisdom teeth in your upper jaw are near your sinuses, they can develop in a way to put pressure on the area.
The gum tissue surrounding your wisdom teeth can swell if the teeth push through your jaw a certain way. When the tissue swells, it may become challenging to clean the teeth and surrounding areas.
When your gums swell up and you can’t clean your wisdom teeth and gums very well, pockets can form between your teeth, creating the perfect hiding spots for bacteria — and cavities — to develop.
When can I keep my wisdom teeth?All this being said, it isn’t always necessary for patients to have their wisdom teeth removed. Here are some circumstances that may allow you to avoid surgery and keep your new set of molars.
Large jaw size.
People come in all different shapes and sizes — and so do their jaws. So, if your jaw happens to be large and spacious enough for an extra set of molars, it may be safe to keep them.
Full-size wisdom teeth.
If your wisdom teeth come in too small, they won’t be able to contribute to the chewing force of your bite and may create a higher risk for tooth loss. But, if your new molars are normal, full-sized teeth with well-developed roots, they can withstand chewing pressures and you may be able to keep them.
Proper cleaning of your teeth and gum tissue is essential for your oral health. Because your wisdom teeth are located the furthest in your mouth, they can be challenging (maybe even impossible) for you to clean. Without consistent cleaning, plaque will accumulate and increase your risk of cavities and gum disease. If you already have a high risk for these problems, you should not keep your wisdom teeth.