Not everyone has wisdom teeth, and not everyone who has them will need to get them extracted. Still, those who end up with these “extra” teeth usually have trouble sooner or later.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are formally known as third molars. Many people – but not everyone – get them in their late teens or early twenties. They are more likely than any other teeth to be misaligned, have other dental problems, or be missing entirely.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth So Troublesome?
Wisdom teeth are a holdover from the distant past. They were used by humanity’s ancestors to grind plant matter. Early hominids had larger skulls than we do: Wisdom teeth simply don’t fit as well in our mouths as they did in theirs!
When Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
Wisdom teeth that fail to erupt from the gums are known as impacted teeth. If they fail to pierce the gum line at all, they usually create no symptoms. Most of the time, they partially erupt. That can cause very painful swelling.
Partly-exposed wisdom teeth are prone to a host of problems, including infections. Thanks to their position in the mouth, they are also difficult to keep clean. That means they are at greater risk of plaque, cavities, and dental infection.
It’s a good idea to see a dentist shortly after the wisdom teeth have erupted or failed to do so. Your dentist can take x-rays to evaluate the position of wisdom teeth and whether they are likely to cause problems in the future.
If the answer is yes, they can be extracted even if they are still partly covered by soft tissue.
At What Age Do People Get Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Most people who have their wisdom teeth removed notice problems with them right away: That is, within the first six months. So, the majority of extractions are performed by the early twenties.
In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth become visible as the gums recede later in life. If they are not intact or they experience decay, they should be removed – usually in the mid-thirties.
Those aged 60 and older are at greater risk of dental infection, and the wisdom teeth are common culprits. Thus, it’s possible to get them extracted later in life. However, younger patients recover more quickly and experience fewer complications.