Questions about wisdom teeth are common in the dental office. What are wisdom teeth? Why do they need to be removed? How can you tell if they need to be removed? To help answers these questions, here are some key facts and guidelines about wisdom teeth.
What are wisdom teeth?
The average adult has thirty two teeth. Front teeth are designed to bite, and back teeth (molars) are designed to chew and grind food. Wisdom teeth are referred to as third molars because they are the last of the back molars to grow in (usually between ages 17 – 21). The trouble is, the average mouth is made to hold only twenty eight teeth, not thirty two. Unfortunately, since there is often insufficient room in the jaw and gum tissue for wisdom teeth to grow in, they tend to cause complications. Wisdom teeth sometimes remain under the tissue, partially emerge, grow in sideways, or take unusual positions in the bone as they try to move.
Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Poorly positioned or impacted (under the surface) teeth can cause further problems such as swelling, infection, jaw stiffness, discomfort, and increased risk of cavities. In rare cases, a cyst may form that can damage the bone or roots. Some people, however, never have any issues with their wisdom teeth. If you are over 30 years old and have never had any issues, it’s likely that your wisdom teeth do not need to be removed. It is always best to ask your dentist for advice to be sure.
How to tell if wisdom teeth need to be removed
Early removal is recommended to avoid complications if wisdom teeth need to be removed. An oral exam and x-rays can help your family dentist evaluate the position of your wisdom teeth and determine whether they should be removed. The best time to have your wisdom teeth examined is around age 16. It is typically best to have them removed, if necessary, before age 20 when the teeth are not yet fully formed. Speak to your local dentist for more information about wisdom tooth health, risks, and removal.