Wisdom Teeth Roulette

Dr. Theresa here this week.   Frequently our teenage patients, and their parents, will ask us, “Do I need to have my wisdom teeth taken out?”  If these ‘wisdom teeth’ are so wise, why do they occasionally need to be removed?

Well, lets start with a little background lesson on teeth.  32 teeth make a full set.  On average, the first permanent molars erupt at age six, and by the early teens 28 teeth are present (including the 12-year molars).  Then, there is a six year hiatus in tooth eruption while the third molars (wisdom teeth) continue to form.  On average, third molars begin to erupt into the mouth at 18 years of age.

Why then do most people NOT have their wisdom teeth?  The problem is the amount of room, or lack thereof, for the wisdom teeth to erupt.  The Maxilla (upper jaw) sometimes has enough room to allow for wisdom tooth eruption, but the Mandible (lower jaw) often does not.  It gets pretty cramped back there!

So, are we as a species shrinking?  In the jaw, yes.  Why?  There are a multitude of theories on this one, but they are beyond the scope of this post.  And none of these theories have been proven correct, so right now everything is speculative.

Does everyone need their wisdom teeth removed?  No.  Our patients are monitored in conjunction with their general dentist to assess the likelihood their wisdom teeth will erupt.  If it looks like their position will inhibit full eruption, or there won’t be enough room for COMPLETE eruption, then we recommend they are removed.  It is as simple as that.

Remember, every patient has an unique set of circumstances.   Therefore some are fortunate enough to be able to keep their wisdom teeth.  Most are not.  The procedure to have them removed is not difficult, and we are lucky to live in an area with many talented professionals that take great care of those patients that need wisdom teeth removed.  So, our advice is to be like Bobby McFerrin.  Google him if you must…

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