Wisdom Teeth: Why Do We Have Them and When Should They Go?

Picture of man with pain from wisdom teeth impaction

Wisdom teeth are the third molars at the back of your mouth that usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. Unfortunately, they can cause oral health issues for some people. In the United States, about 10 million wisdom teeth are removed yearly because they cause dental problems.

Discover why we have these teeth in the first place and how to decide when you need to have them removed.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth appear between 18 and 24 years old in most individuals. Most people have four wisdom teeth: two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw. However, others may have fewer or none at all, and many people’s wisdom teeth may not fully emerge through the gums.

Because they are the last teeth to erupt, many people lack adequate space for them in their jaw, leading to potential dental complications, such as impaction and infection.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are genetically derived from our ancestors, who had larger jaws and more teeth. This was advantageous for grinding down plant tissue, tough meats, and other coarse foods in the prehistoric diet. Our jaws have become smaller as we have evolved, making these additional teeth redundant and challenging to support.

Common Issues with Wisdom Teeth

Due to crowding and improper eruption, wisdom teeth often cause problems that mean they need to be removed. Some of the most common issues include:

  • Impaction: Impaction refers to a situation where a tooth cannot fully emerge or come into its proper position in the mouth. This can lead to various complications, including pain, infection, and potential damage to adjacent teeth.
  • Tooth decay: Abnormally erupted wisdom teeth can be challenging to clean between and around, leading to a build-up of food particles and bacteria. This can increase your risk of decay.
  • Pericoronitis: Pericoronitis occurs in a partially erupted wisdom tooth. This partial eruption can create a small flap of gum tissue near the tooth, trapping food, plaque, and debris, leading to irritation and infection.
  • Tooth misalignment: Wisdom teeth can cause misalignment by exerting pressure on adjacent teeth as they emerge. This can lead to shifting of teeth and undoing previous orthodontic work, which may require further dental or orthodontic interventions to correct the alignment.
  • Dental cysts: Cysts can form around impacted wisdom teeth when the fluid-filled sac surrounding the developing tooth becomes inflamed or infected. These cysts can damage the jawbone, teeth, and nerves and, in rare cases, lead to the development of benign tumors, requiring surgical intervention.

When and Why to Remove Wisdom Teeth

Most dentists will monitor your wisdom tooth development over time to check for unusual eruption patterns or whether they are damaging your other teeth. If they see that your wisdom teeth will cause problems in the future, they may remove them as a preventative measure.

It is time to remove them if they are already causing you trouble, indicated by symptoms like facial swelling, intense pain, sensitivity, or bad breath. The dedicated team at Valley Dental Care will help you schedule your procedure and ensure you receive the best possible care.

Schedule a Consultation at Your Valley Dental

If you’re considering wisdom teeth removal or have concerns about your dental health, contact Valley Dental Care. Our team of experienced providers is here to give you personalized dental advice.

Call our Aurora office at (630) 892-2193 or our Oswego location at (630) 551-7000 to schedule your consultation. Let us help you maintain a healthy and happy smile!