Do Wisdom Teeth Always Need to be Extracted?

When it comes to wisdom teeth, almost all teenagers have the same question: When are they going to come in? The answer, of course, is different for everyone. However, as Dr. Rani Shina of Rolling Hills Family Dentistry explains, most people can expect their wisdom teeth to erupt during the time between their late teens and early 20s.

As a general dentist in Poway, California, Dr. Shina explains that not every person will necessarily get wisdom teeth. Although most people will get all four wisdom teeth at some point, there are some individuals who may only have two or three wisdom teeth grow in. The reason for this has to do with evolution. Wisdom teeth were far more critical to humans when we were roaming around on the ground looking for food to eat than they are today.

These days, wisdom teeth—also known as third molars—have been rendered fairly useless. Now that humans have smaller jaws, wisdom teeth are being pushed out into positions that can potentially put the other teeth in the mouth at risk. This is the main reason why so many dentists recommend that patients make sure to get their wisdom teeth taken out when they begin to erupt.

Dr. Shina says that the best way to determine whether a teen needs to have his wisdom teeth come out is by talking to a professional and having panoramic x-rays taken. These x-rays will show the position of the wisdom teeth inside the mouth, allowing the dentist to properly assess the situation and offer guidance on what needs to be done.

When it comes to wisdom tooth extractions, Dr. Shina says that a proper diagnosis is critical. In order for a dentist to do a good job, he has to know for certain the location of the wisdom teeth and the shape of the roots.

Despite the fact that general dentists handle many of the wisdom tooth extraction procedures performed in the United States today, Dr. Shina says that there are certain instances in which he would be more likely to refer a patient to an oral surgeon rather than performing the procedure himself. One example is if the panoramic x-rays show that the patient’s roots are curved too closely to a nerve. In cases like this, it might be better to let an oral surgeon handle the matter.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of wisdom tooth extraction procedures are very straightforward. Although Dr. Shina says there is no specific medical reason why teens must have their wisdom teeth taken out, most people choose to go forward with the procedure as a way to prevent their third molars from becoming impacted or moving their other teeth out of alignment.

As Dr. Shina explains, the younger a patient is, the easier the extraction  is going to be. A patient coming in to have his wisdom teeth taken out at age 19 or 20 is generally going to recover much more quickly, and have a much more positive experience, than someone who is 35 or 40.

The bottom line is that most people simply do not have mouths that are big enough to accommodate a third set of molars, which is why wisdom tooth removal continues to be a very common procedure.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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