Think back to your senior year in high school. The highlights of your last year were probably the same as ours—going to prom, heading to your final high school spring break destination, filling out college applications, graduating, and lining up a summer job.
What about getting your wisdom teeth taken out?
This milestone might not have been as memorable or as fun as prom, but if you’ve had your wisdom teeth taken out, you probably got it done somewhere between the ages of 17 and 25.
Right after high school is a common time to get these teeth taken out because you have a flexible schedule: you’re working at a fast-food joint or a local coffee shop, spending the summer traveling, or just lounging around your house with nothing better to do.
Maybe you never got your wisdom teeth taken out and are wondering why you didn’t, even though a lot of your friends did. Now, you might be wondering if you or your kid needs those wisdom teeth to come out.
Let’s take a quick look at what exactly wisdom teeth are and whether you or your teenager needs to get them taken out.
What Are Wisdom Teeth, and Why Are They Called Wise?
Wisdom teeth appear during your late teens or early twenties, a time in a young person’s life that was once referred to as the Age of Wisdom. (You might have thought during that time period in your own life that you were a pretty wise guy or girl!)
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last four teeth that will come in your mouth. Some people, though, will never have wisdom teeth, while some might have only two and others might have more than four!
No matter the number, these teeth start forming when you’re a child, but they won’t “erupt,” or break through your gums, until years later. Some people’s wisdom teeth never erupt but still exist under the surface of your gums.
What Are Wisdom Teeth For?
You might be wondering, What are wisdom teeth for if they’re not really seen? It doesn’t seem like you need them, especially if you can just get them removed.
The Background of These Wise Teeth
Many scientists believe that our ancestors’ diets, which were rich in fibrous plants and meats that required a lot of chewing, made wisdom teeth useful. With today’s refined diet, more processed food, more efficient cooking methods, softer foods, and the evolution of dining with silverware, wisdom teeth aren’t needed like they were in the past.
Aside from the purpose of wisdom teeth, our ancestors’ jaws were slightly bigger than ours are now, so they had more room for these extra teeth in the back of their mouths.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that people started getting their wisdom teeth removed. Nowadays, about 5 million people in the U.S. have their wisdom teeth removed every year. According to the American Journal of Public Health, this amounts to $3 billion a year!
So how do you know if you should be part of these statistics and get your teeth removed?
Who Can Stay Wise and Keep Their Wisdom Teeth?
If your wisdom teeth are not impacted—meaning they are not still stuck under your gums but have come out completely like the rest of your teeth—chances are they are healthy. If you take good care of your mouth with regular brushing and flossing and don’t have cavities in your wisdom teeth, you will probably not need these teeth removed. (Sorry—this means the Tooth Fairy won’t be visiting you again!)
Who Needs to Get Rid of Their Smartest Set of Teeth?
If your wisdom teeth are impacted and remain under your gums, they may not have room to push their way through because your other teeth are already in the way. If your wisdom teeth are partially impacted and only erupt part of the way, it will leave an opening for food to work its way in and get stuck.
Because your wisdom teeth are hard to get to or even impossible to get to, they are hard to keep clean. This means they are more susceptible to getting cavities that can’t be treated because they can’t be reached.
Leaving your wisdom teeth in can also lead to gum disease and infection. When your teeth are infected, it’s possible for the bacteria in your mouth to travel into your bloodstream and affect other parts of your body, such as your heart.
Sometimes impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain or discomfort in your mouth or even in your sinuses. This is especially true if your wisdom teeth are crooked or sideways, which can happen when there isn’t enough room for them to grow in straight.
The worst-case scenario is that cysts can form in the tissue around your wisdom teeth, which can cause other issues, like tumors or nerve damage.
What If My Wisdom Teeth Don’t Hurt?
Even if your wisdom teeth don’t hurt, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t need to be removed. There may be problems with these teeth or the surrounding gums that you can’t see or feel.
Unlike your appendix, which isn’t taken out unless it’s about to rupture or is rupturing, your wisdom teeth can be extracted to prevent future problems. Dr. Benefield and the staff here at Grand Dental will carefully examine your mouth and teeth to help determine whether your wisdom teeth need to come out, even if they aren’t causing problems right now.
Is It Painful to Get Them Removed?
We don’t want you to have any fears or concerns that will prevent you from getting your wisdom teeth removed and keeping your dental health in good shape.
You might have been told awhile ago that you needed to get your wisdom teeth pulled but never did because someone told you it was painful. Worry no more—Grand Dental can make wisdom teeth extraction painless. We’ll give you a local anesthesia to numb the area around your teeth and prevent you from feeling pain.
Does It Take a Long Time to Recover?
You might have also heard that it can take awhile to recover from the process, which makes you worry that you’ll have to take time off work to recover. Aside from some minor discomfort or swelling at first, you should be back to normal in just a couple of days, especially if you follow the helpful guidelines we’ll give to you, like eating liquids at first.
What If I’m Anxious?
If you’re anxious about getting your teeth removed, we can offer sedation to help with that, too. We want you to be as comfortable as possible during this process!
Is It Expensive?
Don’t let your finances prevent you from getting your wisdom teeth removed. Some dental plans cover a portion of impacted wisdom teeth removal. You can also talk to us about other financial arrangements to help you pay for the process.
Just remember that getting your wisdom teeth removed can prevent problems down the road that will cost you more money in the future, or unnecessary pain down the road. Coming in for regular checkups will also allow us to keep an eye on your wisdom teeth and provide you with tips to keep your teeth as healthy as possible.
Let Us Help You Make a Wise Decision!
Let us help you make a wise decision when it comes to your wisest of teeth! Contact us today to set up a consultation if you or your teenager would like to know the shape of your wisdom teeth.