Wisdom teeth are a hot topic, even among dental professionals. If you stick 10 dentists in a room with an x-ray of some wisdom teeth, odds are you will get 10 different opinions on how to handle the patient. That being said, all I can do is teach you what I learned in school and through the years.
So let’s start out with the basics. Why do we have wisdom teeth if we need them taken out? Wisdom teeth are left over from our ancestors. Basically, in cavemen days, humans didn’t practice any oral hygiene and were really rough on their teeth. Therefore, teeth are genetically programmed even today to move forward in your mouth. For instance, if you were to chomp on bones like our ancestors did and loose a front tooth, the other teeth in your mouth are constantly applying force in a forward direction to fill that space. Wisdom teeth, also known as 3rd molars, are basically extra teeth supplied to our ancestors so that when they lost their other teeth, from lack of hygiene and rough treatment, there was an extra set to fill in.
Now fast forward to today. With the invention of the toothbrush and toothpaste, we don’t typically need an extra set of molars. In addition, over time, our mouths have become narrower and smaller and most don’t have the space to accommodate 3 sets of molars. Therefore, what tends to happen is that wisdom teeth grow in at an awkward angle. This presents problems.
What are the problems that wisdom teeth cause? There are two major issues. The first, is pericoronitis. This is an infection of the tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth caused by trauma. Since there is limited space in the back of the mouth, wisdom teeth often have excess tissue surrounding them. As people are chewing, the tissue tends to get traumatized by the opposing teeth. This causes swelling and infection and is often extremely painful. The only treatment for pericoronitis is to take out the tooth causing the trauma. This eliminates trauma and the infection will subside. The second problem is decay. Wisdom teeth are so far in the back of the mouth, that it is very difficult for most people to keep them properly cleaned. Therefore, they tend to get decayed more quickly. This eventually leads to infection.
So, here is my recommendation based on what I was taught at the University of Florida as well as by various oral surgeons throughout the years. Most people should have their wisdom teeth removed before the age of 25. Here is the reasoning. Most young people are healthy. In addition, wisdom teeth are easier to remove before the roots are fully formed. We know that as people age, manual dexterity diminishes. Therefore, in elderly people, wisdom teeth are a double edged sword. Not only, have they lost the dexterity to keep the wisdom teeth clean and free of infection, but now, removing wisdom teeth at that age becomes a major surgery. The difference between a 25 year old recovering from wisdom teeth removal versus even a healthy 65 year old wisdom teeth removal is night and day. Therefore, the younger you are when we remove wisdom teeth the easier it is. We remove wisdom teeth to prepare for a healthier future. I got my wisdom teeth removed when I was 18 and I am so thankful that my dentist recommended it and I don’t have to face that as I march on toward my “golden years.” I hope this helped clear up the wisdom tooth debate, message me with any questions!