Do I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

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This is a common topic that is discussed in dental and orthodontic offices everywhere.  Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, usually can be seen on dental x-rays between the ages of 10 and 16.  There are some occasions where a patient can feel their wisdom teeth because they start hurting, but most of the time, wisdom teeth need to be discussed with a dental professional to determine the best course of action.  Most people have them removed, but the question that is usually asked is “Why?”.

One of the major dental myths that has persisted, is that wisdom teeth need to be removed because they can push all other teeth forward and make your front teeth crooked.  To my knowledge, there has not been a scientific article that shows that wisdom teeth specifically cause crooked teeth.  However, there was a study published that examined whether or not patients, previously treated with orthodontics, exhibited an increase in crooked teeth if they had their wisdom teeth compared to patients that had their wisdom teeth removed.  Their results showed that their was no difference in the amount of crowding, (or crooked teeth) between the two groups.  So, if wisdom teeth don't necessarily cause crooked teeth, then why should they be extracted?

First and foremost, there may not be enough room for them to adequately erupt in the proper position.  The other reason is that even when there is room and they are the proper position, it can be difficult to properly take care of them.  It is critical to brush and floss around these teeth. Due to their position at the back of your mouth, it may be difficult to keep them clean.  If you get cavities and gum disease associated with wisdom teeth, your dentist may want to remove them anyway.

So, when is it appropriate to keep your wisdom teeth?  If there is enough room for them to fully erupt into the proper position and you can keep them clean, then it may not be necessary to have them removed.  While most people have their wisdom teeth removed, it's not because they are causing the rest of your teeth to become crooked, but rather to help you maintain proper oral health throughout your life.  Every patient's situation is different, so ask your dental professional if you have any questions regarding your wisdom teeth.