I get so many questions about wisdom teeth so I thought it would be a good topic to discuss. Most of the wisdom teeth I remove are because there simply isn’t enough space! Its so strange to remove a healthy tooth with not a speck of decay only because there is no place for the tooth but that is what happens all the time.
If we go back in time several thousand years and look at the skeletons of our ancestors we’d see that their jaws were much longer than ours. You would also see that their skulls were smaller. As we’ve evolved, our brains have grown bigger and extended the skull down and forward. You can see that the increase in cranium has pushed the jaw forward. Our faces have also flattened. Our jaws used to be the most protrusive aspects of our faces but now it is usually the nose. So that also limits the size of the jaw. So simply, we’ve really benefited by our amazing, giant brains but it comes at the cost of a reduction in our mandibles.
Now we have a dilemma, our jaws are smaller but we still need to squeeze in the same amount of teeth. So what do we do? Most of the time when there is an issue we just remove the offending tooth. Sometimes we remove preemptively. I always recommend young people to remove their wisdom teeth before they finish their orthodontic treatment. I have my wisdom teeth when I was 19 before they caused any problem because my dentist felt they would cause problems later.
Not all wisdom teeth extractions are equal! Some wisdom teeth come out really easy. It is usually really easy to remove a erupted/semi-erupted wisdom tooth in a 18 year old because they roots haven’t had a chance to set in. Sometimes the wisdom teeth erupt in a position that makes them really hard to remove. Sometime it requires cutting the gums and surrounding bone to access the tooth. That’s why some people get their wisdom teeth removed and have no down time and others have their cheeks swell up like chipmunks!
It’s interesting to talk to dentists because there are many different philosophies to wisdom teeth. Some dentists want to remove every wisdom tooth, others will only try save them if the patient is missing teeth and may need the wisdom tooth in the future to support a bridge. As for myself, I’m really conservative. I try to save all teeth, even wisdom teeth. So if a wisdom tooth isn’t causing any problems, my recommendation is to leave it be.