An estimated 10 million wisdom teeth are removed each year. As the theory goes, these teeth are prone to having issues and are not really needed for chewing, so it is better to get them out of the way. Today, though, dentistry is starting to rethink that idea. Whether or not you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted depends on many individual factors. Here is what you need to know.
Although there is some debate over whether to remove wisdom teeth that are not causing problems, dentists agree that there are some urgent issues that make immediate extraction highly important. These include, but are not limited to:
Pain: If you are in pain, and your dentist determines that the source of your pain is your wisdom teeth, they should be removed as soon as possible. Wisdom tooth pain indicates a problem, such as cysts, cavities, gum disease, or pressure on the sinuses. These issues worsen over time, so removing the source of the problem is best.
Damage to the surrounding teeth: Sometimes wisdom teeth crowd the mouth. If yours are pushing on the neighboring teeth, they must come out. Otherwise, you are at risk for tooth shifting, bite issues, and other problems.
Alignment issues: If your wisdom teeth are not perfectly straight, they can cause alignment issues with prior dental work such as braces or bridges. It is very important not to undo your previous work, so your wisdom teeth may need to come out even if they are otherwise healthy.
Even if your wisdom teeth are not causing any current problems, you may need to have them removed. If they are growing in at a difficult angle or have not fully emerged from your gums, there is a higher risk of them causing problems down the road. Bones tend to harden with age, so wisdom tooth extraction in adulthood is often more difficult than extraction in your teens. If your dentist suspects that your wisdom teeth will need removal eventually, it may be best to go ahead and take them out.
Straight, Healthy, and Uncrowded Wisdom Teeth
If you are fortunate enough to have naturally straight, healthy teeth, there may be no reason not to keep your wisdom teeth. As long as they do not affect your bite or crowd the neighboring teeth, and you are able to easily reach them with a toothbrush, you may be able to keep your wisdom teeth.
Wisdom tooth removal was once considered routine, but modern dentistry takes a more personalized approach. Your dentist will use a clinical examination, x-rays, and a review of your oral health history to come to a decision on whether to remove your wisdom teeth. If they are causing you pain or other dental issues, though, it only makes sense to go ahead and remove them.
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