You have probably heard that wisdom teeth need to be removed, but is that really the case? Or could leaving them in be a smarter decision? In this blog post, we will go over the pros and cons of having wisdom teeth removed so you can make the best decision for your dental health.
What Exactly are Wisdom Teeth?
Most people have four wisdom teeth, which are the molars (large grinding teeth) at the very back of your mouth. Wisdom teeth typically appear in your late teens or early twenties. For some people, wisdom teeth cause no problems, and they never need to be removed.
But for others, wisdom teeth can be problematic. They may grow in crooked, become impacted (stuck), or grow only partially through the gum. When wisdom teeth are not removed, they can crowd or damage surrounding teeth and make it difficult to keep your mouth clean.
Common wisdom teeth pain symptoms can occur when wisdom teeth become impacted or start to grow in. If you experience pain, you may notice:
- •Swelling and tenderness in your gums
- •Pain when biting down
- •A bad taste in your mouth
- •An unpleasant odor coming from your mouth
If you are experiencing any wisdom teeth pain symptoms, see your dentist or oral surgeon to discuss whether you need your wisdom teeth removed.
Are Wisdom Teeth Really All That Necessary?
For years, wisdom teeth have been seen as a necessary evil. While they may eventually provide some extra chewing surface, they often cause more problems than they are worth. Wisdom teeth removal is a common surgery, and even then, wisdom teeth can cause problems like crowding, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth.
So why do we have wisdom teeth in the first place? Scientists believe that wisdom teeth were once helpful for our ancestors who had to chew tougher foods. However, as our diets have softened over time, wisdom teeth have become less and less necessary.
Keeping Your Wisdom Teeth
There are a couple of good reasons to keep your wisdom teeth. For one thing, they can provide extra support for the jawbone as we age. Overall, asymptomatic or pain-less wisdom teeth do not pose a threat to other teeth like the second molars and can be kept to avoid the hassle1.
Second, there is also a risk of damaging nerves during wisdom teeth removal, which can cause numbness in the lips or chin.
When Wisdom Teeth Should be Removed
While wisdom teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth, they often cause problems when they become impacted, or fail to erupt properly. When wisdom teeth become impacted, they can grow at an angle and push against other teeth, causing pain and crowding. In some cases, wisdom teeth may even become fused to the jawbone.
If wisdom teeth are not removed, they can lead to a host of dental problems, including:
- •Gum disease
A 2020 study points to some evidence that suggests that keeping pain-less disease-free impacted wisdom teeth can increase the risk of gum diseases like periodontitis2. Another 2015 study suggested that dentigerous cysts may actually become increasingly common as a person ages as the inflammation becomes prolonged3.
Wisdom teeth removal is a relatively straightforward procedure, and removal pain can be effectively managed with over-the-counter or prescription medications. In most cases, wisdom teeth pain relief is just a matter of waiting for the healing process to complete.
While there are pros and cons to keeping your wisdom teeth, we believe that making an informed choice is always best.
- Kaye E, Heaton B, Aljoghaiman EA, Singhal A, Sohn W, Garcia RI. Third-Molar Status and Risk of Loss of Adjacent Second Molars. Journal of Dental Research. 2021;100(7):700-705. doi:10.1177/0022034521990653
- Ghaeminia H, Nienhuijs MEL, Toedtling V, et al. Surgical removal versus retention for the management of asymptomatic disease-free impacted wisdom teeth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020;5(5). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003879.PUB5
- Asnani S, Mahindra U, Rudagi B, Kini Y, Kharkar V. Dentigerous cyst with an impacted third molar obliterating complete maxillary sinus. Indian Journal of Dental Research. 2012;23(6):833-835. doi:10.4103/0970-9290.111275