Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

A Common Misconception About Wisdom Teeth is That They Must be Removed

x-ray of impacted wisdom teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth. Jeffrey Blakemore/E+/Getty Images

Do you know someone who has had to have their wisdom teeth removed? Have you had them removed yourself? Many individuals have to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their life, but why? 

The third molars, known simply as your wisdom teeth, are the last permanent teeth to erupt into your mouth, as they typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 years old. 

Although the exact rationale behind the term "wisdom teeth" is unknown, it is thought that the third molars were given the name "wisdom teeth" because they erupt at a time when a child becomes wiser -- as they enter adulthood.

The average person will develop four wisdom teeth, but that is not always the case for all individuals. Many people develop supernumerary (extra) wisdom teeth, while some lucky individuals fail to develop some or all of their wisdom teeth altogether. 

Many people require wisdom tooth extractions, for a number of reasons. However, a common misconception about wisdom teeth is they must be removed. Realistically, this is not the case.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed? 

There are several various reasons that an individual might need or want their wisdom teeth removed. Wisdom teeth are generally removed because:

  • They are erupting in to an abnormal position -- tilted, sideways or twisted.
  • They are trapped below the gum line, or impacted, due to lack of space in the dental arch.

  • An infection, or pericoronitis, has developed from trapped food, plaque and bacteria.

  • The way the patient's teeth bite together has changed, causing malocclusion of the teeth and misalignment of the jaws.

  • The erupted wisdom tooth lacks proper hygiene because it is hard to reach, resulting in tooth decay.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in dental surgery. Your dentist may choose to refer you to see a surgeon for your wisdom tooth extractions, or he might perform the surgery in his dental office.

The most common reason for a referral to an oral surgeon is because of where the wisdom teeth are positioned and the difficulty level of the extraction. If you request general anesthesia, or IV sedation, you will likely be referred to see an oral surgeon.

The thought of having your wisdom teeth removed can be intimidating. Keep in mind that this procedure is done in your overall best interest. Recovering from wisdom tooth removal is not as tough as you might think. When followed accurately, the instructions given to you before your oral surgery and after your oral surgery will ensure that your recovery is as smooth as possible.

Sources:

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Wisdom Teeth

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