Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last to form and erupt in the mouth. These teeth usually erupt in the late teens. This time is traditionally known as the age of wisdom and passage to adulthood, hence the name “wisdom teeth.”
Why do we have wisdom teeth removed?
It is thought that wisdom teeth played a role in the mouths of our prehistoric ancestors. The larger more developed jaw of our ancestors allowed room for the third molars. This large jaw was needed to shred the course food in their diets. Also, in the past, more permanent teeth were lost at an early age due to decay or periodontal disease, and the wisdom teeth acted as replacements.
Now that more individuals retain their permanent teeth and our diets do not consist of mostly coarse foods, wisdom teeth are not needed. Therefore, the human jaw has evolved to be smaller; causing inadequate space for the wisdom teeth.
Why should wisdom teeth be removed?
Since most jaws are too small to allow complete eruption of wisdom teeth, it is common to have them removed. They are the last teeth in the jaw line and commonly grow sideways, pushing on the existing teeth. Some teeth stay below the gum line or impacted, yet others push slightly above the gum line posing risk for plaque build-up and traps for food debris. This can lead to decay problems, periodontal issues and possible infection.
An infection called Pericornitis occurs when a tooth is partially erupted and food and bacteria collect under the gum. Although below the gum line, impacted teeth can develop cysts, which can lead to bone destruction and weakening of the jaw.
Can I leave them until they hurt?
It is best to have your wisdom teeth removed before they cause you problems. The younger you are and the less root development of the teeth generally means less bone retention and easier removal. In addition, the younger and healthier you are, the faster you will heal.
Studies also have linked erupted wisdom teeth to higher decay and periodontal problems. This is mainly because of their position in the mouth and the difficulty in keeping them clean. This accumulation of plaque and bacteria can additionally affect the health of your other teeth, which you do not want to lose.
Who will remove the wisdom teeth?
Your wisdom teeth may be removed by your general dentist or you may be referred to an oral surgeon. This will depend on your regular dentist’s evaluation.
The most common age to have an evaluation for removal of your wisdom teeth is between 17 and 22 years old.