Don’t Wait For Wisdom Teeth To Be A Problem

Say the words, “wisdom teeth,” and you’ll probably be greeted with groans and removal stories. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons estimates that about 85 percent of wisdom teeth will eventually need to be removed.  So if 85 percent of us can carry on our lives without our wisdom teeth why on earth do we even have them?

Sometimes the wise thing to do is get rid of wisdom teeth.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth, or more accurately the third set of molars, are leftovers from the days when our ancestor’s diet contained coarse, rough food. Think leaves, nuts, and meats (without the benefit of cutlery) that needed more and longer chewing efforts.

All of this exercise required a broader jaw and more molars, hence the third set of chewing accessories. This larger jaw was also more accommodating for this additional set so they came in naturally and didn’t impose like our wisdom teeth do today.

Wisdom Teeth in the Modern Age

As the years have passed we’ve embraced a more modern diet of softer foods, more cooking, chopping, dicing, baking and all things Food Network. We also invented more cutlery than we really need (shrimp fork, anyone?) and this has made eating pretty darn easy. Experts believe our jaw line has become less broad and smaller over the years because of the ease of consumption.

Unfortunately our wisdom teeth weren’t notified of their obsolescence and continue to try and emerge, hence the need for extraction.

Wisdom Tooth Development

But why does this third set wait so long to show up? Tooth development, from baby teeth to permanent teeth, takes place in an organized fashion, over a course of years, with the first molar erupting around the age of six and the second molar erupting around the age of 12. Wisdom teeth are the last on the development timeline and normally erupt between the ages of 17-25. And since that was considered practically elderly in previous eras they became known as “wisdom teeth.”

Some people get wisdom teeth that are perfectly cooperative and emerge naturally with no issues. Others may never get them at all. Still others get one or as many a four. It’s a mystery why the number of teeth varies but for those who do get them they can lead to all manner of issues. They can become impacted (blocked) by other teeth or even infected if they only partially erupt and then produce bacteria from trapped food particles.  They may even show up late enough to displace other teeth leading to serious health and cosmetic problems. A cyst may form in the soft tissue around the tooth area and can lead to bone destruction, jaw expansion or damage to other teeth.

Handling Issues with Wisdom Teeth

Being proactive is the best remedy to stave off any of the problems associated with wisdom teeth. Dr. Wagner recommends that patients remove wisdom teeth in the mid teens to early adulthood to avoid future issues. This is when the roots of the teeth are about two-thirds formed and easiest to extract.  As patients age they have a higher risk for complications as well as longer recovery times from wisdom teeth extraction.

If you think you need to have your wisdom examined and potentially removed come in to Wagner Oral Surgery. While we can’t promise a painless experience we can promise compassionate attention, gentle wisdom teeth removal and a smile that won’t hurt when you’re done.

Dr. Wagner says; “Don’t wait for the wisdom teeth to be a problem. You will have a much easier time and it is less complicated on a younger patient.”

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