It sometimes feels like wisdom teeth are simply there to cause us grief. An evolutionary hang-up, they were necessary for our ancestors to more effectively chew tough plants and meat and act as insurance for faster wear. As we’ve evolved and developed better oral hygiene, as well as utensils and cooking methods, wisdom teeth have become largely redundant. Sometimes, they can even be a danger to our oral health. Let’s have a look at why you may have to get your wisdom teeth out.
Why problems can arise with wisdom teeth
When it comes to teeth, you’ve got sharp ones at the front used for tearing and flatter ones at the back used for grinding, called molars. Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars, positioned behind all the others, one for each corner of the mouth. Some people develop all four wisdom teeth, others fewer, and some never have any at all. Typically, they come through between the ages of 17 and 25, the final teeth to do so.
Their arrival can cause issues. For most people, their jaw has finished growing around the age of 18. Because wisdom teeth usually come through slightly later than this, often there just isn’t the room for them.
Decay is a big reason why you may have to get your wisdom teeth out. Sometimes wisdom teeth become impacted, which simply means they’re stuck below the surface of the gum. They can also be partially impacted, which means they haven’t erupted fully. In this case, there is a strong chance of bacteria getting trapped and causing the tooth to decay. Due to their awkward position at the back of the mouth, they often don’t get much treatment from a toothbrush either, creating the perfect storm.
Occasionally, wisdom teeth can come through at an odd angle, pressing against the molar directly in front. Cleaning this area adequately is very difficult. In this case, there is a chance of not only losing the wisdom tooth, but the molar next along as well.
Due to the lack of room for wisdom teeth, they can often come through at odd angles, pressing up against their neighbours and causing misalignment, overcrowding and, ultimately, pain and discomfort. With the help of x-rays, we can tell from an early stage the route your wisdom teeth are taking. If it looks like their path will cause issues, it’s always advisable to have them removed before they start knocking your other teeth out of whack.
We also recommend having them removed after orthodontic work. Braces are used to straighten teeth and basically spread them out more evenly. At the end of the process, there’s usually less room in the mouth for wisdom teeth than there was before. If we don’t remove the wisdom teeth at this stage, it’s likely their emergence will undo all the good orthodontic work.
What can happen if I don’t have my wisdom teeth removed?
If nothing is wrong with your wisdom teeth, then you can keep them for life without issue. However, if problems arise and you don’t have them attended to, you may end up losing more than your back molars.
Decay spreads. As we noted earlier, if one tooth becomes infected, other teeth around it can too. Losing a wisdom tooth isn’t a big deal; we don’t need them. But if they are decaying and left untreated, you could end up losing the twelve-year-old molar next to it as well – and this tooth is very useful.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to many complications later in life. It’s pivotal that early on we do our best to keep the teeth we have.
Misaligned, overcrowded and overlapping teeth can also cause issues. It’s much harder to adequately clean between teeth that are jammed against one another. If we can’t remove the bacteria, decay will set in. Once again, the risk with not removing wisdom teeth is that you’ll end up losing other, more necessary, teeth as well.
So, do you have to get your wisdom teeth out? The best way to find out is by chatting to your dentist. If you’re concerned about the impact they might have, book an appointment with our friendly team today.