You might not know this, but not everyone develops wisdom teeth or develops all four wisdom teeth. Either way, for patients who do develop wisdom teeth, they can cause pain, crowding and other problems, in some instances.
The short answer to the question, “Do I have to get my wisdom teeth removed?” is, “Maybe not. Talk to your dentist.”
Why do dentists remove wisdom teeth?
There are several reasons why your dentist might recommend removing your wisdom teeth:
- Prolonged and sometimes severe pain that may not be restricted to the mouth. In some cases, pain in the neck, head, arms, and back can also be attributed to wisdom teeth.
- Impacted teeth. Wisdom teeth are virtually functionless in the modern human body. As a result, wisdom teeth may grow in an irregular direction and become impacted. An impacted tooth doesn’t come through the gum because it has no place to go.
- Infection. Irregular growth can cause pockets in the gum where bacteria flourish, increasing your risk of infection.
- Moving/shifting teeth. As we said earlier, there’s very little room for wisdom teeth in your mouth, but they will just force themselves in there, even if they push other teeth out of alignment.
- Cavities. All this crowding in your mouth makes it easy for food particles to get trapped but hard for your toothbrush to reach. You may develop a cavity in your wisdom tooth or a nearby tooth.
Is it possible to keep my wisdom teeth?
Maybe. Seek out an honest evaluation from a dentist you trust and look for things like:
- Are your wisdom teeth fully erupted?
- Are they healthy? No cavities?
- Are your upper and lower molars aligned?
- Are your wisdom teeth in a position that doesn’t crowd your first and second molars?
- Can you clean your wisdom teeth properly, reaching every crevice with a toothbrush and floss?
- Do you experience pain at the back of your jaw or in your neck, head, arms or back that has no other medical explanation?
If your dentist gives your mouth, including your wisdom teeth, a clean bill of health, you might not need to remove them.
When do I need to get my wisdom teeth removed?
First, go to the dentist and have an open and honest conversation about your oral health. If you are experiencing symptoms like those laid out in Part 1, extracting the wisdom teeth will relieve those symptoms and possibly prevent future problems.
If your wisdom teeth aren’t giving you a problem right now, ask your dentist what they think the possibility of trouble in the future might be. If your dentist doesn’t feel comfortable making that kind of prediction, it could be worth speaking to an orthodontist to get another opinion.