Think of wisdom teeth and extractions often come to mind as well. This should come as no surprise, because about 85% of us will have our wisdom teeth extracted at some point. Wisdom teeth extraction is so common that it has almost become a rite of passage for young adults.
Perhaps you’ve wondered if extracting wisdom teeth is really necessary. It’s a good question, and not an easy one to answer emphatically, says Dr. Meriem Boukadoum here at 54th Street Dental in New York City.
Take a minute as Dr. Boukadoum unpacks this complex topic so you can understand what factors go into making the final decision.
Let’s jump in by describing what wisdom teeth are and their intended purpose. Wisdom teeth are the four flat-shaped final molars that emerge on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Most people see these teeth come in when they’re in their late teens or early 20s.
Wisdom teeth have no real function in today’s world, but instead hark back to days when humans were hunters and gatherers and ate things like meat, leaves, roots, and nuts. Without modern-day cooking devices or utensils, wisdom teeth were especially essential.
These strong teeth with a flat surface enabled humans to mash, grind, and chew properly before swallowing.
Aside from a modern lack of necessity is a concern about a lack of space in your mouth. In the times of hunters and gatherers, humans had much larger jaws that could accommodate a full set of 32 permanent teeth. With the smaller jaws of modern humans, wisdom teeth can cause crowding issues.
When it comes to recommendations for wisdom teeth extractions, dentists may subscribe to a wide range of schools of thought, but a few factors often help make the final decision.
One such situation that might make extracting wisdom teeth a no-brainer is impacted wisdom teeth. This condition is usually a space issue.
When wisdom teeth don’t emerge through the gumline properly, they’re referred to as impacted wisdom teeth. Either the tooth doesn’t fully emerge (partially impacted), or no part of it cuts through the gumline (fully impacted).
In both cases, the patient may experience jaw pain, a swollen jaw or bleeding gums. Impacted wisdom teeth put patients at a greater risk for infection and future dental problems.
Wisdom teeth extraction is also common in orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist may deem one or more extractions prudent for teeth alignment or crowding issues. Orthodontists typically remove the wisdom teeth at the beginning or at the end of the treatment plan.
The concern here is that allowing wisdom teeth to emerge could trigger shifting issues among other teeth and either disrupt the tooth movement process during orthodontic treatment or completely mess up plans for that perfect smile.
Another school of thought is that since wisdom teeth have no real purpose and are hard to properly clean because they’re in the back of your mouth, it’s better to remove them. The higher risk for decay and gum disease means it’s not unusual for these types of extractions to take place when the patient is younger.
Extractions completed later in life tend to be more complicated as the teeth roots and bone are more established. Younger patients also tend to recover more quickly from extractions.
If you have questions about your wisdom teeth, contact 54th Street Dental for a whitening consultation. To reach us, use the online booking tool, or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.