Can we make important educational content about wisdom teeth as entertaining as those viral post-wisdom teeth extraction videos? We sure can try.
What are wisdom teeth
To simplify it, wisdom teeth are really far back teeth in your mouth. They’re technically your third molars, and are seen as “wise” — not because they’re in a film starring Danny DeVito or in the shape of a monocle — but because they come in at an older age than your other teeth (between 17-21 years old). If they come through correctly, healthy wisdom teeth are totally normal and can even help you chew. Feeling a little discomfort when your wisdom teeth come through can be normal, too.
But, sometimes they need to be extracted because there are complications… or there simply is not enough room in your mouth. As the dental professional version of The Notorious D.M.D (the dental professional version of The Notorious B.I.G. in another universe) says, “Mo Teeth Mo Problems.”
Problems with wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth can cause many problems if they come in the wrong way, or if they don’t have the room to grow in properly. Scientists aren’t totally sure why we sometimes don’t have enough room in our mouths for something that naturally grows inside of our mouths. It seems… counterintuitive. But, many scientists believe the human brain has grown bigger over time leading to a decreased jaw size, because there’s only so much room in our heads — and real estate for the brain may be slightly more valuable than teeth. Plus, we weren’t exactly eating rainbow crepe cakes at the dawn of human existence. As our diets and knowledge of oral hygiene have changed, so have our dental needs and our bodies. Either way, if your wisdom teeth are still under your gums and don’t erupt, you may have impacted wisdom teeth. If they do erupt through the gums, your dentist and hygienist may be checking for the following:
- Wisdom teeth that partially erupt through the gums can create a space for bacteria to grow and infection could occur.
- Wisdom teeth that come in at the wrong angle can push against the neighboring teeth, potentially creating issues with the teeth next door, like crowding, infection, cavities, and issues with the roots.
- Wisdom teeth that erupt in the wrong position can allow food to become trapped and can cause cavities and damage to the tooth.
Due to the nature of where the wisdom teeth are in the mouth, they can be difficult to clean. Because they are so far back, brush and flossing all the way in the back can be hard, especially if wisdom teeth are not perfectly positioned.
Why your dentist may want them removed
Due to all the above potential issues, wisdom teeth may need to be removed for a number of reasons. The ADA says that all of the following are reasons wisdom teeth may need to be taken out by an oral surgeon.
- Damage to neighboring teeth
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)
It’s important to discuss with your dentist and hygienist the best course of action when it comes to wisdom teeth. Extraction can be expensive and painful, which will require extra planning for many people. Plus, it may just not be necessary. Your dental pros may want to take an x-ray to properly see where your wisdom teeth are located, and you can discuss the best way to deal with your wisdom teeth at your dental visit. Usually, your dentist will recommend that you get your wisdom teeth out sooner rather than later, if there is a problem. Due to all the problems that can arise with wisdom teeth, and the fact that they don’t usually come in positioned perfectly, it’s always better to deal with them before any problems arise. Also, as we age, cleaning our teeth properly becomes harder and extraction surgery may be harder to perform if the patient is older and on different medications. Talk with your dentist and ask about your wisdom teeth and decide what is the best way to deal with them, whether that is taking them out, or learning how to clean them properly.