Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth

April 04, 2015 - Advice, Dental Tips

Have you ever wondered why some people have wisdom teeth and others do not? Many explain this phenomenon as natural selection. As the human species evolves we no longer need wisdom teeth and therefore they are slowly disappearing from our gene pool. Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars and about 30% of people are missing one or more. Often wisdom teeth are removed because they don't grow properly. "Impacted" wisdom teeth are prevented from reaching their normal position within the mouth. They can also be removed if there is too much pain, or if they only partially break through the gums leading to chewing or periodontal problems. Many people do not have enough space in their mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth; this may lead to difficulty brushing and infection. Wisdom teeth can also impact other teeth, growing below or into other molars and causing crowding. 

In general it is best to have wisdom teeth removed between the ages of 16 and 22. At this stage the formation of the root of the wisdom tooth is not complete so there are fewer complications and risks. The incidence of cavities on wisdom teeth increases with age. It is never too late to have your wisdom teeth removed if it is recommended by your dentist and waiting to have wisdom teeth removed can lead to more serious complications.

If you decide to have your wisdom teeth removed here is what you should expect:

  1. Sedation, typically intravenous anaesthetic and local anaesthetic.
  2. Surgery, usually takes 20-30 minutes.
  3. Recovery, usually swelling and discomfort may last 3-5 days.

As with any surgery there are risks and complications, these include added discomfort if a blood clot becomes dislodged which may cause dry socket (this is most common with smokers). There are also risks of infection and serious nerve injury.

If you're curious about your wisdom teeth, ask to see a panoramic x-ray from your dentist. This will show you if your wisdom teeth exist and where they are located.