Especially with the younger crowd, this is a question we get time and time again in our office! And understandably so! To some, removing the wisdom teeth seems like it should be an elective procedure, not a necessary one.
You have probably heard the statistic that 85% of people have to have their wisdom teeth (also called “third molars”) extracted at some point during their life. But you may be wondering “Why?” (As in “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?”)
Well, as it turns out, naming these teeth “wise” demonstrates a very questionable use of vocabulary. “Wisdom” teeth actually turn out to be more like “trouble makers” for most people, and the common removal of them during the young adult years is done as a necessary preventative measure to avoid much bigger problems down the road.
What kind of problems are we preventing?
One of the problems wisdom teeth present is that often there is no place for them to grow. The average mouth is designed to accommodate 28 permanent teeth, not 32. What ends up happening is that the third molars start to grow horizontally, inward or outward or even into the jaw bone, eventually crowding the nerves and causing pain.
In the case of impacted teeth, they may be “stuck” in the jawbone, only able to partially erupt through the gums. This can create an inlet for bacteria with the potential to cause serious infection inside the mouth and jaw area. Furthermore, brushing and flossing becomes a problem, which leads to more problems with decay and infection.
Still not convinced as to why we would perform the procedure now instead of just waiting to see if you develop problems later in life? Great question! As it turns out, we have a very good reason for that as well: In a teen or young adult, the removal of wisdom teeth is much easier to perform with less pain and complications simply because the roots have not fully formed yet. Once those roots set in the surgery becomes more complicated.