When it comes to your teeth, there are a few common “rites of passage.” Losing your two front teeth, getting your first permanent teeth and getting braces are all fairly common dental events. Another common dental rite of passage, at least for people of a certain age, is having the wisdom teeth extracted. Traditionally, wisdom teeth removal took place in the late teens, right around the time that a person graduated high school and went off to college.
In recent years, however, there’s been a shift in thinking when it comes to the wisdom teeth. Fewer people are having them removed these days. While modern humans don’t need the wisdom teeth in the same way that our ancestors did, some dentists are questioning whether taking the teeth as a routine dental procedure is really necessary.
If your wisdom teeth aren’t causing you any trouble, you might want to discuss the pros and cons of wisdom teeth removal with your dentist before deciding to take action.
Pro: Wisdom Teeth Removal Reduces the Risk of Complications from Impacted Teeth
Wisdom teeth are different from the other teeth in your mouth. While most people get their second set of molars by the age of 13, the last set tends to take a little longer to emerge. That final set, known as the wisdom teeth or third molars, usually doesn’t begin to make its appearance until a person’s in their late teens.
The size of the human jaw means that many people don’t have room in the back of their mouths for another tooth. As a result, wisdom teeth often come in at an angle and end up impacted. An impacted tooth is one that can’t break through the gums properly. It might get stuck halfway through, it might never break through, or it might end up pushing into a neighboring tooth.
Impacted wisdom teeth can also affect the positioning of the other teeth in the mouth, meaning that a person might end up needing orthodontic treatment.
If the wisdom teeth are impacted or if there’s a risk that they are likely to become impacted, it’s usually in a person’s best interest to have them removed.
Con: Unnecessary Removal Brings With it a Risk of Complications
Although in the past it was common to take preventative action when it came to wisdom teeth removal, extracting the teeth when there isn’t an immediate need can put a patient at an increased risk of complications. Surgical complications can include infection, bleeding or dry socket. While many people get over any complications quickly, there is a small chance that some, such as numbness in the mouth, can persist.
Pro: Removal Reduces the Risk of Cavities
Plenty of people find it difficult to reach the back molars in their mouths when brushing and flossing. Letting a third set of molars come in can make it even more challenging. In some cases, the wisdom teeth are more prone to cavities and decay, simply because they are so far back in the mouth and difficult to clean.
Con: Removal Requires Surgery
One major drawback of wisdom teeth removal, whether it’s necessary or preventative, is that it is a surgical procedure. That means the procedure requires anesthesia, either local or with a sedative. It also requires recovery. You might have to take some time off from work or school when you get your wisdom teeth out. You’re also likely to experience some discomfort after the surgery. Recovering patients have to stick to soft food for several days after the procedure.
If you are likely to have problems from impacted wisdom teeth, the hassle of surgery might be well worth it. Otherwise, it might be more trouble than it’s worth.
Pro: It’s Easier to Remove Wisdom Teeth at a Younger Age
One last argument in favor of preventative wisdom teeth extraction: It’s easier to remove the teeth from the jaw and gums when a person is younger. If you have your teeth extracted when you’re 16 or 18, the surgery is likely to be less complicated and your recovery might be shorter and easier.
When it comes to wisdom teeth removal, there’s really no one-size-fits-all answer. Your dentist can help you weigh the pros and cons and come to a decision that will best suit you.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also offers dental exams and cleanings. He can recommend options that are right for your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.