Our dentists at First Impressions get more questions about wisdom tooth extractions than nearly anything else! Over 20% of adults never had their wisdom teeth out and as they age, complications and health problems may result. If you have kids, you’re probably wondering “should teens have their wisdom teeth out?” The answer is a little more complicated than you might think. So let’s look at the most common questions we hear about wisdom teeth.
What are wisdom teeth, exactly?
Wisdom teeth are the common name for what dentists call the “3rd molars.” They’re located at the back of your mouth and are the last adult teeth to come into the mouth (a process known as “eruption”).
Most people will begin to notice their wisdom teeth by the time they’re in their teens or early 20’s.
Why do we have wisdom teeth at all?
The lives of early humans were very rough and tumble. Tooth loss was extremely common. They ate a diet rich in tough and fibrous plant material. The late-erupting wisdom teeth helped people overcome these problems. Plus, back in those days humans had larger jaws which provided extra room for the wisdom teeth. Today, wisdom teeth are considered vestigial, meaning they’re no longer necessary for survival — similar to the appendix.
Does everyone have wisdom teeth?
In fact, as many as 10% of Americans don’t have wisdom teeth at all. It’s all genetic. If you don’t have wisdom teeth, you’re in luck and will never have to worry about having them removed.
Can wisdom teeth cause problems?
Yes, wisdom teeth are the source of a variety of dental health problems. Because our jaws are smaller than the used to be, there’s often not enough room for wisdom teeth, causing:
- Crowded teeth – Your mouth might just not be big enough to accommodate 4 more large molars. Crowded teeth cause a host of problems and can be painful, too!
- Misaligned bite – Crowded teeth often lead to misalignment of the bite and jaw, which may increase jaw pain or cause teeth to become crooked.
- Increased risk of tooth decay – Crowded teeth can act like magnets for sticky bits of cavity-causing food and the tight spaces can be hard to brush, too.
- Misaligned roots – When the teeth themselves are misaligned, the roots are misaligned as well. Misaligned roots can damage the root structure of neighboring teeth. This is a problem that may not present with many obvious symptoms, but over time may contribute to tooth loss.
When should kids have their wisdom teeth looked at?
The best thing to do is to make sure kids see the dentist regularly for exams and checkups. As kids become teenagers, their dentists can monitor their wisdom teeth. At First Impressions Dentistry, we use x-rays to see how wisdom teeth are developing in addition to a visual exam.
By monitoring a child’s teeth over time, we’re able to see any changes and identify possible problems early.
Do wisdom teeth always need to be removed?
In some cases, wisdom teeth don’t need to be removed. If they’re growing in straight and aren’t causing any crowding, they might not need to be removed.
Should wisdom teeth be removed?
Even if a teen’s wisdom teeth aren’t causing any problems right now, many parents elect to have their children’s wisdom teeth removed for a few reasons:
- Generally speaking, kids tend to heal faster than adults. Plus most kids have spring/summer breaks built into their schedules which gives them extra time to heal.
- If your dental insurance coverage will contribute to the cost of your child’s wisdom tooth extraction, it may be a good investment to extract them sooner rather than later.
- There’s no guarantee of what may happen in the future. Wisdom teeth can develop cavities and infections just like any other tooth. Removing them helps eliminate the possibility.
It’s important to note that you should not allow the dental insurance you have (or don’t have) to dictate the care you or your child receives. Our dentists will explain your options and help you decide on the best course of treatment. We can also discuss financial options to help you afford the care your family needs.
Does it hurt to get your wisdom teeth out?
Many people are anxious about getting their wisdom teeth out. They may have heard horror stories from their parents or read scary stories online. But the truth is, it’s never been easier to get your wisdom teeth extracted. Modern dental technology, including sedation dentistry options, have made the procedure much more comfortable than it ever was in the past.
In particular, sedation dentistry can help you relax and feel more at ease during your wisdom tooth extraction. Our office offers:
- Nitrous oxide – Also known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is a gas breathed in through a small mask worn over your nose. You’ll feel giddy and relaxed. It wears off quickly, too!
- Oral sedation – When planning your wisdom tooth procedure, ask your dentist about medications you can take to reduce anxiety before your appointment. There are some great options available.
- Conscious IV sedation – You may have heard of twilight sedation. This is a great option for most wisdom tooth extractions. You’ll feel completely relaxed and will still be able to communicate with your dentist if needed. But best of all, you’ll have no memory of the procedure after it’s over. Plus you’ll avoid the risks and side effects of general anesthesia (the form of sedation where you’re fully “asleep”).
How will I feel after my wisdom teeth are out?
Everyone’s different. Some people are back to normal the next day and others take a few days to fully recover. Your dentist will provide aftercare instructions, which may include:
- Having someone drive you home from your procedure
- Following instructions to avoid dry socket
- Using tea bags to help reduce bleeding in your mouth
- Ice packs to keep swelling down
- Gentle salt water rinses to promote healing
- Sparing use of prescription medication to reduce soreness
- Things to avoid: sticky foods, spitting and sucking, intense exercise
Schedule a consultation today
If your child still has his or her wisdom teeth — or if you still have your wisdom teeth — First Impressions Dentistry can help! Call (405) 879-0000 today to schedule a consultation and to learn more about your options.