One of the most common questions patients ask is whether they need their wisdom teeth removed, even if they don’t have any symptoms! Even people without a history of dental anxiety get nervous when talking about their wisdom teeth and the possibility of having them removed. You might be surprised to know that not everyone needs them removed.
Ridgetop Dental Group in Reston, VA provides comprehensive dentistry to patients of all ages. Learn more about wisdom teeth and when you might need them removed.
Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, the last set of teeth to grow in the rear of the mouth, normally erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. They’re called “wisdom” teeth because that is the age when young adults leave the home to search for wisdom — at least, according to the wives’ tale!
They are clinically referred to as “third molars” because they are very similar to the first two sets of molars that develop in childhood and adolescence. You might remember a little bit of discomfort in middle school when your second set of molars came in. The process involved in the third set of molars is the same, but this time there’s less room for them to move around.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Dentists don’t remove wisdom teeth without good reason to do so. Most opt for the most conservative treatment possible based on specific indicators that signal a possible need for wisdom teeth removal, such as:
- Pericoronitis: As wisdom teeth begin coming out of the gums, a flap of gum tissue can develop and trap oral bacteria and leftover food particles. This can lead to an infection called pericoronitis, which irritates the surrounding gums. Since this area is in the back of the mouth, any additional inflammation can make the area even more difficult to clean. Pericoronitis can occur even in teeth that have not broken through the gums yet.
- They become impacted: Impacted wisdom teeth do not always indicate infected wisdom teeth. When wisdom teeth are unable to erupt because they are blocked by the existing teeth, they are considered impacted. While some patients experience discomfort when this happens, others wouldn’t know until a dentist finds it on a dental X-ray.
- The dentist suspects a risk of future problems: If your dentist determines there is a risk of future problems by leaving the wisdom teeth in, they may suggest extraction. Performing wisdom tooth extraction is easier on younger patients, so even if you haven’t experienced problems yet, your dentist may recommend removal to prevent a more difficult procedure in the future.
Conservative Wisdom Teeth Treatment
Not everyone with wisdom teeth needs them removed, and there are some people who never develop them at all. You may not even need all four of them removed, or problems can be managed without surgery. It’s important to have regular dental checkups, especially as a teen and young adult, so your dentist can monitor how your oral health progresses. Patients in the Reston, VA area with questions about their wisdom teeth should schedule an appointment with Ridgetop Dental Group online or call us.