When and Why to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth

“My wisdom teeth don’t hurt, so they don’t need to be removed.”

Wisdom teeth are typically removed in the late teen age year as to prevent potential problems, and because that is when the risks for removal are lowest. While many people do have their wisdom teeth removed at that age, many people wait until they are much older. Sometimes this is because the person had no other choice, or maybe because the person was unaware of any need to have the procedure performed.

Some people live by the saying “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. While this is a true statement in many situations, it can be a very damaging philosophy when applied to wisdom teeth. It is possible for wisdom teeth to cause damage without causing symptoms. When symptoms arise, the damage is often extensive.

One example of this are cysts that form around impacted teeth. This cyst below has invaded the space of a nerve, eroded the bone of the adjacent teeth, and has greatly thinned out the jaw bone. The jaw bone is so thin, that the patient is at risk for jaw fracture. When this cyst was removed, the adjacent teeth were also removed. Since the bone was so thin, hardware had to be placed on the jaw as to prevent jaw fracture.

Wisdom teeth often “block” your ability to perform oral hygiene around your 2nd molars. This predisposes the 2nd molars to tooth decay and periodontal disease. The picture here shows a wisdom tooth lying sideways and pressing into the 2nd molar. There is periodontal disease and tooth decay on the second molar because of the wisdom tooth. Periodontal disease is loss of gums and bone around the teeth.

The other unfortunate thing about this situation is that the roots of the wisdom tooth are near a nerve canal. This nerve is now at risk of damage from removal of the wisdom tooth. The roots of wisdom teeth are typically not through developing in the teen age years; therefore, this risk is greatly minimized.
Not all people have to get their wisdom teeth removed, but most people do. If you decide to keep your wisdom teeth, then they should be closely monitored by your dentist.