They must have been dubbed “wisdom teeth” for a reason right? Some joke that they make a person wiser and therefore should be kept but, truth be told, most of the time it’s better to take wisdom teeth out! Unless these 3rd molars are able to completely erupt (or poke through the gum tissue), being impacted (or stuck in the jaw bone) or only partially erupted can actually cause problems.
Most Dentists would confirm that the younger a person is, the easier it is to take wisdom teeth out. In fact, taking them out early while their roots haven’t quite developed all the way and people are able to heal more quickly after surgery is more ideal 100% of the time.
Generally, wisdom teeth start to appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Whether they erupt or not, is another story. Depending on their depth in the jaw bone, the angle at which they are sitting, and by how much the tooth is covered by tissue and/or bone is how 3rd molars are classified.
- A tooth may be covered partially by bone and leaning toward the front of the mouth
- Partially erupted and leaning towards the back of the mouth
- Or perhaps, completely covered by bone and laying completely horizontal in the jaw bone
- Lower wisdom teeth can also be more difficult because they become tangled in the nerve that runs along the mandible, the inferior alveolar nerve.
Depending on where or how the teeth are positioned in the jaw bone determines the difficulty of their removal and how much the fee will be. In order for a Dentist to get an idea of what your wisdom look like, an x-ray is taken call a panoramic. It encircles your head and gets all of your teeth and jaw in one big x-ray.
Why Do We Even Have Wisdom Teeth?
If most people end up getting them taken out and they cause more problems than they do benefit our chewing ability, why do humans even have wisdom teeth? Though we don’t have room for them in our mouths nowadays, our ancestors had larger jaw bones that held more teeth. Being more herbivorous than us modern day carnivores, our ancestors probably used their 3rd molars to help grind down vegetation. However, we don’t necessarily grind as much plant-life, nor have the room anymore so more often than not, our 3rd molars are removed. Medically speaking, you could say that wisdom teeth are vestigial to the human body, or unnecessary, not unlike our appendix.
And What Happens If I Don’t Take Them Out?
If wisdom teeth are impacted, they can cause many issues that can affect your oral and overall health.
Here are a few things that can happen if left untreated:
- Partially erupted wisdom teeth can cause a flap of gum tissue to get food impacted between the tooth and gums causing an inflammation called periocoronitis.
- Wisdom teeth that can’t fully erupt or oftentimes very far back in the mouth, making them hard to clean as well. This can cause cavities to grow which can start to affect the teeth in front of the 3rd molar if not treated right away. But, constant food impaction around a wisdom toothis the perfect place to harbor decay causing bacteria (which can also cause bad breath!)
- 3rd molars that are angled toward 2nd molars can start to dissolve away the 2nd molar’s roots and therefore force them to need to be extracted.
- Forward tipping teeth can also cause bone loss around the tooth in front of it by a bacterial infection in the gums and surrounding tissues of the tooth called periodontal disease. Bone loss in the jaw is irreparable and can cause the tooth to be extracted as well.
Though by definition 3rd molars should be pick of the litter to keep, they are often the brunt of most headaches (literally) and should be taken out by your dentist or oral surgeon of choice as soon as your Doctor recommends it.