Cutting teeth is a painful experience — there’s a reason little kids cry when they’re teething — but most adults don’t experience this until they’re dealing with their wisdom teeth. These extra molars grow in the very back of your mouth and can become problematic if you don’t address them.
It’s important to know when wisdom teeth need to be removed and when you can avoid a trip to the dentist.
What Should I Know About Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth to erupt. You may have some wisdom teeth that haven’t erupted or are so far up in your jaw bone that they might never flare up. In this situation, the teeth generally don’t cause problems, so they won’t be anything other than a note in your file and a picture on your dental x-ray.
If you’re lucky, you might be one of the 2% of the population that is born without any wisdom teeth at all.
Wisdom teeth are also classified as ‘vestigial organs’ — body parts that we’ve evolved from. Our ancestors might have needed that extra set of molars in the past, but modern day humans don’t need them. They’re one of the only vestigial organs that can cause problems and require medical intervention.
When Do I Need to Have Them Removed?
Usually, if you start experiencing pain or problems with your wisdom teeth, your dentist will recommend removing them. Most commonly, you’ll experience:
- The teeth are growing in sideways and pressing against already established molars.
- Partial Eruption. The tooth or teeth erupt partially from the gum, causing pain and creating the potential for infection.
- Overcrowding or alignment issues. Wisdom teeth growing into an already crowded mouth can cause the rest of the teeth to be pushed out of alignment, which could require additional intervention.
Depending on the severity of your wisdom teeth problems, you may be able to have the teeth removed under local anesthetic. You could also opt for general anesthesia if you aren’t comfortable with heading to the dentist.
When Can I Keep My Wisdom Teeth?
The good news is that you don’t always need to have your wisdom teeth removed if you’re not having problems with them.
If your wisdom teeth come in normally, are fully erupted from the gums and able to be cleaned properly during your daily dental hygiene routine, congratulations — you’re the proud owner of a functional set of wisdom teeth.
Your dentist may want to perform a bite test to make sure that the teeth are positioned correctly, but if they aren’t causing any pain or dental problems, there’s no reason to remove them.
Wisdom teeth are a leftover characteristic from our past, and if they start causing pain or signs of infection, it’s important to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to address these problems. If they grow in without incident, you’re in good shape. But remember: don’t take chances with your teeth — they don’t grow back after you lose them, after all!