Every year, scores of teens and young adults (and some older adults) have their wisdom teeth removed. For some, the reasons for extraction are obvious — for others, not so much.
If you still have your wisdom teeth, you might be wondering if it’s time to think about having them pulled, or if it’s OK to leave them in place. In this post, Brandon Kang, DDS, and our team at Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center explain the reasoning behind wisdom teeth removal, even if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing any symptoms currently.
When wisdom teeth removal makes sense
If your wisdom teeth are causing you pain, if they’re decayed, or if your surrounding gums are infected, having them extracted is pretty much a no-brainer. Located far back in your jaw, these teeth provide little assistance in the way of chewing, and your bite can be perfectly balanced and functional without them.
Likewise, if your wisdom teeth have come in underneath neighboring teeth — a problem called impaction — it’s also important to have them removed as soon as possible. If you ignore an impacted tooth, it can cause a lot of problems with your neighboring teeth, even resulting in deep bone infections and tooth loss.
Those are obvious reasons to have your wisdom teeth extracted. But what if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing issues? Does extraction still make sense? The answer, surprisingly, is often yes.
The reason for extraction in this case is to prevent future problems. Because of their location far back in your jaw joint, wisdom teeth are very hard to keep clean, and that paves the way for decay and deep infection that can affect multiple teeth (and your jawbone).
Having your wisdom teeth pulled eliminates these potential problems, and it makes it easier to keep the rest of your teeth and gums clean and healthy.
When it’s OK to keep your wisdom teeth
As you can see, wisdom teeth extraction makes sense for just about everyone, including people who don’t have any current symptoms. Prophylactic extraction is the best way to prevent issues from happening in the future, and it can also result in a less complex extraction and faster recovery.
Still, not everyone has their wisdom teeth removed. If your wisdom teeth are properly aligned and fully erupted and exposed — and if you have the commitment to take the time to properly clean them and the surrounding gum tissue — then it’s perfectly OK to decide against having them pulled.
The key here is to make sure you’re using the proper cleaning technique, including brushing the back of the tooth near your jaw joint, and flossing regularly. Routine dental checkups become even more important to give our team the opportunity to catch problems early, before deep infection or other problems occur.
It’s true you can have your wisdom teeth extracted at pretty much any age. But having them pulled when you're younger makes a lot of sense. When you’re younger, your tooth roots haven’t fully formed, and your jawbone heals more easily. That means the procedure is simpler and recovery can be faster and more comfortable.
Bottom line: The only way to know for sure if your wisdom teeth need to come out is to schedule a checkup so Dr. Kang can examine them, along with your jaw structure, bite balance, and other factors. If extraction is recommended, Dr. Kang tailors your treatment specifically for your needs.
To schedule your examination at our Oakland or San Francisco, California, office, call us or book an appointment online today.