Sometimes, wisdom teeth come in normally and provide the mouth with another set of powerful, food-crushing molars. Unfortunately, that is the exception and not the rule.
It seems like pretty much everyone has their wisdom teeth (third molars) extracted before they come in around the age of 18. A lot of people wonder why our bodies even bother to make wisdom teeth if we just end up removing them. That’s a good question.
One theory is that a long time ago people lost teeth a lot earlier due to poor oral hygiene and the third molars came in later in life to provide fresh, healthy teeth. Since some teeth had already fallen out, there was room for the wisdom teeth.
Currently, wisdom teeth are usually extracted as a preventive measure so that other problems do not occur later in life.
The reasons dental professionals remove wisdom are many, but they all boil down to one main reason – there is simply not enough room in the mouth for wisdom teeth.
There Isn’t Enough Room for Wisdom Teeth
Here are a few reasons why dentists normally extract wisdom teeth:
- There isn’t enough room in the jaw for them to come in.
- There won’t be enough room in the mouth for them to come in.
- Due to lack of space, wisdom teeth often come in at an awkward angle and can damage adjacent teeth.
- If they never break through into the mouth, they can cause big problems later on.
- Since they are so far back, they are harder to clean. This increases the likelihood of developing cavities and gum disease.
There Isn’t Enough Room in the Jaw for Wisdom Teeth
Some people have smaller bones than others. Sometimes, the jaws are not big enough to contain all of the teeth that our bodies produce. After taking a diagnostic x-ray, your dentist can best advise you as to whether or not you will have enough room in your jaw to allow the wisdom teeth to erupt normally.
There Won’t Be Enough Room in the Mouth for Wisdom Teeth
Sometimes wisdom teeth can’t come up far enough into the mouth to serve as functional teeth. In some cases, the wisdom teeth only partially erupt into the mouth and can result in severe pain in the gingiva (gums) when biting.
You can see an example of this in the photo to the left.
Wisdom Teeth Come in at an Awkward Angle
Wisdom teeth usually have a tendency to be abnormal. They sometimes look very different and often they come into the mouth at different angles due to a lack of space.
As you can see in the x-ray to the right, the upper wisdom tooth is pointing backwards and the lower one looks like it is going to run into the tooth in front of it.
Many wisdom teeth try to erupt into the mouth by pushing on the molar right in front of it. This can make it easy for the adjacent molar to get a cavity. It can also cause the gums to recede around that tooth. This can sometimes severely damage the adjacent molar that both it and the wisdom tooth need to be extracted.
Wisdom Teeth Can Cause Big Problems Later On
One of my professors at dental school showed me an x-ray of a patient that never had his wisdom teeth extracted. Even though this patient was in his 50’s, an infection had started around his impacted wisdom tooth. This resulted in a necessary surgery that cost thousands of dollars. This surgery could have been prevented by simply removing the wisdom teeth at an early age when the tooth and roots were small and still forming.
When a tooth is just sitting inside the jawbone for many years, it can form what is called a dentigerous cyst. This cyst can eventually turn into cancer.
Wisdom Teeth Are Hard to Clean and Often Get Cavities
Some of the patients that I see at the dental school have their wisdom teeth. In many cases, they complain that they are very hard to clean. They say that it is almost impossible to brush and floss way back there.
Because of this, many wisdom teeth develop cavities. If someone can’t clean their wisdom teeth, then it’s a good idea to get them taken out before they cause pain and problems.
In the picture to the left, you can see a young man’s teeth. The last tooth in back is the wisdom tooth. It looks like the very back of the wisdom tooth was very hard for this young man to clean. Because of this, he developed a cavity and it looks like the tooth probably was extracted.
Do you have any questions about getting your wisdom teeth out? Do you still have your wisdom teeth? If so, have you had any problems with them?
Please leave any questions or comments below in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for reading!