Should My Wisdom Teeth Be Removed as a Preventative Measure?
Wisdom teeth only need to be removed as a preventative measure if they are likely to jeopardize the alignment of the teeth in the front of the mouth when they do eventually grow in, according to Walnut Creek dentist Dr. John C. Noakes, DDS. Otherwise, people should be able to leave their wisdom teeth alone.
Of course, deciding whether a wisdom tooth that is growing in is going to jeopardize any of the other teeth in the mouth is a judgment call that only a dentist with plenty of experience can make. Noakes says that dentists usually determine whether a wisdom tooth will need to be taken out based on the angle at which it is growing in, and how the other wisdom teeth are coming in as well. “If they are impacted, of course, that means they will never come in,” he says.
Although an impacted tooth may partially come out from the gums or poke through just a little bit, it will never erupt like all of the other teeth in the mouth. There are countless reasons why a wisdom tooth could become impacted, but the most common reason is because the angle that the tooth is growing in is forcing it to hit the jaw bone. Additionally, the impacted wisdom tooth could be hitting the tooth in front of it, so that could be what is preventing it from coming all the way out.
If the wisdom teeth are growing in at an angle that is going to hurt the other teeth in the front of the mouth – especially if the patient has already undergone extensive orthodontic treatments – then a dentist may recommend that all of the wisdom teeth come out preventatively in order to ensure that they do not jeopardize the alignment of any of the other teeth in the mouth. “Usually if you don’t have enough room for it to come out naturally, it impacts itself or doesn’t fully erupt,” Noakes says.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted, then Noakes says that would be a definite sign that the tooth should come out via extraction. Once the tooth has partially erupted, the extraction should happen fairly soon, Noakes explains. Impacted teeth and those that have not fully erupted can be difficult to clean and may be prone to decay. However, patients can still take their time in booking oral surgery just as long as an infection has not yet set in.
As with most dental procedures, a wisdom tooth extraction is an elective procedures that patients have the choice to go forward with or not. This is especially true for wisdom teeth that have not fully erupted from the gums, since patients whose teeth have yet to erupt could theoretically wait years before deciding whether to remove them or leave them in. Many patients choose to wait a period of months between when their dentists first recommend the extraction and when they decide to go forward with the surgery due to convenience, since it may be easier to undergo wisdom tooth extraction during the summer months or when the patient has a break from school or work.
There are times, however, when a dentist may recommend that his patient leave his wisdom teeth alone. Noakes explains that if a wisdom tooth is growing in and it has space to grow, then it is completely acceptable to let it come in naturally. “And then you would just have more teeth,” he says. Despite the fact that many people falsely believe that all wisdom teeth must be extracted, Noakes says this is simply not the case. “You only need to extract them if they are a problem,” he says.
For the most part, Noakes says most people have their wisdom teeth removed during their late teen years. He says that wisdom teeth start coming through when people are around 18 years old, so that is the most common time for a person to go through with the oral surgery. He says that he will oftentimes refer patients to an oral surgeon who will remove all four wisdom teeth at once, even if only one is currently growing in, to ensure that the patient does not have to go through the sedation and recovery process again in the future.
*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.