Do you need to see the dentist about your wisdom teeth? You might be wondering why so many people get their wisdom teeth removed and whether you will need to, too. Not everyone needs their wisdom teeth removed. However, we may recommend extracting them if they are causing problems or may cause problems later on.
Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars. Most people get their wisdom teeth between ages 17 and 21. That’s where the name “wisdom teeth” comes in – because you’re “older and wiser” when they emerge compared to when you get your other permanent teeth.
About 85% of people today will need their wisdom teeth removed during their lifetime. In many cases, the dentist may recommend removing them during your teenage or young adult years. This may be the case even if they aren’t currently causing problems but may in the future. As we get older, the bones in your mouth get harder and tougher. This can make later removal more difficult, which is why many dental experts recommend extraction sooner rather than later. Also, people around this age tend to heal faster and easier from wisdom tooth extraction.
Wisdom teeth can erupt (grow through the gums) or may be impacted, which means they get stuck beneath the gums. Whether your wisdom teeth are visible or impacted, they can cause problems for your dental health, which is why we may recommend removal.
Why the Dentist May Recommend Wisdom Tooth Extraction
There are several reasons why the dentist may recommend getting your wisdom teeth extracted. While not everyone will need their wisdom teeth removed, many people do because they can cause problems for your teeth and oral health.
Wisdom teeth can cause many different issues, including:
- Inflamed gums
- Tooth decay
- Crooked teeth
- Tooth damage
- Sinus problems
The problem with wisdom teeth is that they can lead to many different oral health problems. This can be especially true if they don’t erupt or if they take a crooked path. Generally, this is because there isn’t enough room in your jaw for these extra molars to sit properly in the mouth. In some cases, this even means that your wisdom teeth could be causing issues without even being visible in your mouth yet.
Types of Issues you May Experience with Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can press on your gums and cause pain and inflammation. They can also create pockets below the gums that may lead to cysts, which can damage the roots of nearby teeth. Also, if left untreated, cysts can even form tumors under the gums.
If your wisdom teeth decide to partially peek up above the gums, this can leave a convenient path for bacteria to take into your gums. This can increase your risk for oral infections, such as dental abscesses. You may also have a higher risk of tooth decay in the wisdom teeth. Therefore, the dentist may recommend removal because of these risks.
Even if your wisdom teeth come in fully, they may still cause problems. For example, if they come in crooked, they can damage the neighboring molars and affect your bite. Also, because they are so far back in the mouth, it can be difficult to properly floss and brush them, increasing your risk for cavities and other issues. Wisdom teeth can also crowd your other teeth and move them over time, which can lead to crooked teeth.
So, if the dentist believes any of these issues may happen, then we may recommend wisdom tooth extraction to help protect your present and future dental health. Also, if you notice any signs that your wisdom teeth might be causing problems, make sure you mention these to the dentist.
Signs to Talk to our Dentist about Wisdom Teeth Removal
Coming in for regular exams and X-rays can help us with early detection of situations where you may need wisdom tooth extraction. Generally, your routine teeth X-rays can help us see how developed your wisdom teeth are and how they’re placed under the gums.
However, there are some signs that you should watch out for that can indicate it’s time to get them checked on outside of your routine exam.
Some signs you may need wisdom tooth removal include:
- Pain or sensitivity in the back of your mouth
- Gum inflammation in the back of your mouth
- Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Jaw pain or stiffness
These symptoms could mean that your wisdom teeth are starting to come in, that you’re experiencing an infection from your wisdom teeth, or even that the pressure of your upper wisdom teeth could be putting extra strain on your sinuses. Come in for an exam to discuss your options with our dentist.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
If most people need their wisdom teeth removed by the dentist, then why do we even have them? There are several theories. One of the most popular theories is that our jaws have gotten smaller over time. Smaller jaws means there’s less room for that extra set of molars. Early humans likely needed their wisdom teeth for extra chewing power.
Many scientists believe that our jaws have become smaller over time because our diets have changed. Our ancestors mainly subsisted on a wild diet of really tough foods, like raw meat, nuts, and uncooked plants. This meant that their teeth likely experienced more wear and tear than our teeth do today. The third set of molars may have helped our ancestors combat this by providing more chewing surfaces to crush and break down foods. This diet of really hard foods may have also helped stimulate jaw growth, so their jaws were big enough to have plenty of room for wisdom teeth.
Today, we tend to eat much softer foods than humans used to. We cook most of the things we eat, which makes them softer. Also, unlike in the past, we use utensils to cut our food up into smaller, easier-to-chew bites. This may account for smaller jaws that have a hard time accommodating wisdom teeth.
Therefore, while we used to need our wisdom teeth to eat foods we foraged in the wild, today most people will need their family dentist to remove them. Most people develop at least one wisdom tooth, though there are some people who don’t develop any at all. Most people’s wisdom teeth will start to become visible on X-rays at around the age of 12, with many people getting them extracted between ages 18 and 25.
Talk to the Dentist About Wisdom Tooth Extraction
So, what happens if the dentist thinks you should have your wisdom teeth removed? If this is the case, we’ll discuss the different options and the pros and cons of removal versus leaving them as they are.
Often, you can choose between local and general anesthesia for wisdom tooth extraction. Local anesthesia involves using numbing shots near the area. While you shouldn’t feel pain during the extraction, you may still feel vibrations or pressure. With local anesthesia, you’ll be awake during the extraction. By contrast, general anesthesia means you’ll be sleeping during the removal.
It’s important to talk to our dentist about the different options, as well as what to do before and after removal. This will depend on your specific circumstances, and there are pros and cons to all the different options. Our dentist will talk to you about the risks and benefits of extraction as well as the different choices for wisdom teeth removal based on your individual needs and circumstances.
Recovering from Wisdom Tooth Removal
After extraction, you may feel some pain or swelling in your cheeks. The dentist may recommend holding an ice pack on the outside of your cheeks for 10 minutes on and 20 minutes off to help with this. Also, we may recommend eating soft, easy-to-chew foods after extraction as you heal.
We recommend avoiding alcohol, sugary candies, tobacco or electronic cigarettes, and other substances that may increase your risks for post-extraction complications. For example, alcohol can kill good bacteria in your mouth that may help with healing. High sugar foods can also help bad oral bacteria flourish, as sugar is what they love to eat. Tobacco products and e-cigarettes can also dry your mouth out, which can increase your risk for infections, such as dry socket.
Before having your wisdom teeth pulled, we’ll discuss all this information with you to help you have a safe and healthy extraction. Most people return to work within one to three days and fully recover within about two weeks.
Visit Your Friendly Dentist in Katy
Need a dentist near me? At The ToothBooth, we provide personalized dental care in a warm and welcoming environment. Dr. Taha provides a wide range of dental services, from general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry to oral surgery. She specializes in many different aspects of dentistry to help you keep your smile healthy and beautiful. We provide excellent dental care for everyone from toddlers to grandparents and are happy to welcome new patients. Call us today at (832) 437-0841 to book an appointment with our team!