Wisdom teeth are really anything but wise. They actually are relics of our caveman ancestry when we had much longer jaws and ate lots of stuff like bark and roots that you don’t really find in the produce aisle these days. Back then, our caveman great, great, great, etc. uncle and aunt needed the extra molars because of the wear and tear of chewing really tough foods.
Alas, now our wisdom teeth are deemed “vestigial organs” — body parts that have become functionless due to evolution. Yep, they’re right in there with our tailbone, appendix, and tonsils.
Taking them out is a virtual rite of passage for teenagers, with around 10 million individual wisdom teeth removed each year.
So, why do they have to come out, and how will you know? At Gentle Dental, we remove our fair share of these caveman teeth. Some are impacted, or stuck, and can’t break through your jaw and into your mouth. In other cases, the patient’s mouth is too small (too evolved!) to fit in another set of molars. Or the wisdom teeth can be coming in sideways and pushing on the adjacent teeth.
Some people don’t need their wisdom teeth removed, but most people have them removed. For some, it’s a simple decision, as one wisdom tooth is kind of erupting while others are doing somersaults in the gumline. Or x-rays show three of the four wisdom teeth lying sideways like a dog on a sunny piece of grass. Those are obvious cases where extraction is the only way to go. But there are also other reasons for removing them. Here are a few other reasons to have them yanked.
- Jaw damage — Cysts can form around the wisdom teeth, hollowing out your jaw and damaging the nerves.
- Damage to other teeth — Wisdom teeth can come in and push your other teeth around causing alignment and bite issues.
- Inflamed gums — The gums around erupting wisdom teeth can become inflamed, especially if their eruption has stalled, and can form pockets that harbor bacteria. That bacteria eventually attack the teeth and that equals decay.
- Sinus issues — Wisdom teeth can mess with your sinuses, believe it or not, causing sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.
At Gentle Dental, we keep an eye on the wisdom teeth of our patients. That’s why yearly x-rays are so important. We’ll tell you or your teen when we think it’s probably about time to extract them. Or if you’re having other problems like those above, call us at (732) 549-5660 and let’s take a look.