Wisdom teeth may not seem terribly “wise.” Although the large molars at the back of your mouth served a function at one point, when humans had wider jaws and needed to chew rugged food like game, they’re basically useless today. Regardless, their name doesn’t stem from how “smart” it might be to have them, but from the age they tend to appear: between ages 18 and 24 when you’re coming into adulthood.
Preventive wisdom tooth extraction
Some wisdom teeth never break through gum tissue or emerge only partially. When this happens, you can end up with a bacterial infection, cyst, and damage to your gums and bones. Because few people have enough room for the teeth, any portions that do poke through can be tough to brush or floss well. This can lead to additional problems, such as tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
Wisdom teeth can also over-crowd your mouth, leading to misalignment. For all of these reasons, we recommend considering wisdom teeth removal as a preventive measure well before these issues unfold. Based on X-rays, your dentist can help you determine the best plan.
Once you have wisdom tooth problems
If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed and start noticing issues such as pain, inflammation, jaw pain, or bleeding gums, it may mean one or more of the molars are impacted. In other words, you don’t have room for the teeth to emerge, and those complications have begun. The longer you wait for extraction, the more intense and severe these symptoms are likely to become.
If you ignore a bacterial infection, it can spread, affecting far more than one tooth alone. If you’re experiencing wisdom tooth problems, see one of our specialists at your earliest convenience.
When you can keep wisdom teeth
Most people fair best by having their wisdom teeth removed by age 25. When the roots are less developed, your jawbone is less dense, and the overall removal process is simpler. That said, you may not need extraction at all if the molars appear to be:
- Fully grown in
- Positioned correctly
- Easy to brush and floss
Because these factors are difficult to determine on your own, guidance and routine exams by your dentist are vital. If you keep your wisdom teeth, they’ll need close monitoring through exams, professional cleanings, and X-rays to make sure any signs of problems are noticed and addressed early.