At some point, just about everyone has to make the decision whether or not to have their wisdom teeth removed. Honestly, it’s a hotly-debated topic in dentistry. In many parts of the world, they are almost always removed during a person’s mid-teens to early twenties, before problems occur and when a person heals the quickest. In other places, they are only removed if they develop problems, often in middle-age or later. Like many things in healthcare there are multiple options, each with their own pros and cons.
Third molars, or wisdom teeth as they are commonly called, often do not erupt into a person’s mouth like other teeth. It’s been suggested that they are a leftover from many years ago when our jaws were larger and had room for more teeth. Most people have four, but it’s not unusual for someone to have zero, two, or even six!
Even when these teeth come in all the way, they are more difficult to keep clean because of how far back they are. When they only erupt part of the way into someone’s mouth it becomes even harder to keep them healthy.
That’s why issues can develop like:
The reason that there’s some debate about whether to remove wisdom teeth is because the latest studies tell us that if we leave them alone, the chance of having these problems is less than 10 percent. There’s another piece of this puzzle, though. We know that if you end up in that 10 percent that have issues it’s often going to be later in life when the teeth are harder to remove, the chance of complications such as permanent numbness is often higher, and the healing time is longer. All of this at a time in someone’s life when they are probably busier than ever!
As part of your exam at Galloway Smiles we make sure to evaluate your or your children’s wisdom teeth and inform you of all your options. When possible, if it looks like they should be removed then we offer to take them out in our office with numbing and possibly IV conscious sedation. For many people, the right choice is to see an oral surgeon, a dental specialist with extensive training in wisdom tooth removal and anesthesia. We can explain all your options and help you decide what’s right for you or your loved ones.
If you have a problem with a wisdom tooth, or if they are coming in and you’re not sure what to do, then call our office and we’ll be happy to help you figure out what is going on.