A recent article in USA Today reintroduced the age old question of whether or not to remove those pesky third molars, also referred to as wisdom teeth. This can be a complicated decision based on one’s individual situation and I would, therefore, like to add my perspective.
Wisdom teeth typically erupt between the ages of 18 and 25, just when young adults are often moving off to college or starting careers. The considerations for removing wisdom teeth may include:
- They may be causing pain in the jaw or contributing to infection in the gums.
- There is often not enough space in the jaw for third molars to erupt into a healthy functioning position.
- Third molars are easier to remove before the roots are completely formed. Healing following surgery is often much quicker in younger that older adults. (Most dentists put the “cutoff “ age for elective removal at around 40.)
- Wisdom teeth may interfere with orthodontic treatment.
- “Murphy’s Law” – It seems that problems with wisdom teeth always seem to happen at the worst possible time, i.e. you are in the middle of final exams, a wedding or other important social function, you are leaving town for vacation tomorrow – you get the idea!
- In most cases they don’t really help people chew their food unless there are other missing teeth.
- The potential (albeit unknown in many cases) for creating future problems.
That being said, the case for keeping those third molars could be made if:
- There is enough room for them to erupt into a healthy maintainable position in the jaw.
- An orthodontist could use one to replace a congenitally missing tooth.
- Potential complications such as infection and possible numbness are considered.
- A third molar could be used at some point to support a fixed or removable bridge.
These are just a some of the considerations that should be addressed in deciding whether or not to undergo removal of those wisdom teeth. Be sure to consult with us if you ever find yourself at this crossroad.