Considering what the past 15 or so months have been like, we all may have made some different plans had we known what was coming. We would have bought stock in disinfectant companies and Zoom Video Communications. We would have gone out to eat every night. And we would have had our teenagers’ wisdom teeth removed because they were going to be home forever!
Now that we’re finally just about past this dumb virus, it may not be as easy to have your teen’s wisdom teeth extracted now, but it’s still necessary. We perform these extractions right in our Edison Street offices at Gentle Dental. That precludes our patients from having to search around for an oral surgeon to do the job.
Now is a good time to have wisdom teeth extracted, just before school returns…in person this year!
What are wisdom teeth?
Before we get to the dental lingo, let’s start with a little anthropology. Vestigial organs — that’s what anthropologists call things like your appendix, your tailbone, and your wisdom teeth. These organs are no longer of any use for modern humans: they’re a relic of our prehistoric past.
Back when mastodons were stomping on us, it made sense to have a third set of molars. Our diets consisted of leaves, roots, nuts, and some very tough meat. All of this required far greater chewing power and caused greater wear and tear on our teeth. To make room for this extra set of molars, prehistoric jaws were longer than our current model.
Why does my teen have to get his or her wisdom teeth pulled?
We can get away with our tailbone and appendix, but the arrival of our wisdom teeth is invariably bad news. If we still had longer jaws everything would be fine, but our modern shorter jaw length means there isn’t any room for a third set of molars. So, when your wisdom teeth come down, they become impacted (blocked) by the other teeth. They can come in sideways, pushing on the adjacent teeth. They sometimes are surrounded by bone. Often one wisdom tooth will partially erupt, creating pockets in the gums that are perfect places for bacteria to thrive.
Although you may know someone who has their erupted wisdom teeth in place, people like that are very, very rare. Others seem to never have had their wisdom teeth come down and cause havoc. Those few are evolutionarily advanced! For the rest of us, the wisdom teeth simply cause the other teeth to be pushed out of position and other dental issues, and they need to be extracted.
When should my wisdom teeth come out?
Waiting is not good in the case of your wisdom teeth. They may erupt all the way until around age 25, but you should be proactive with these prehistoric relics. Why? When a teenager is between the ages of 15 and 18 his or her wisdom tooth roots are only two-thirds formed, making this the perfect time to yank them out. Wait until their 20s and extraction will become more involved.
We keep an eye on our teenage patients’ wisdom teeth with our regular x-rays. This allows us to see when they are beginning to impact the adjacent teeth and need to be removed. We perform these extractions at Gentle Dental, so you don’t have the hassle of finding an oral surgeon.