Do You Need to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

by Kaia Koglin
An X ray image of a human mouth shows wisdom teeth highlighted in red against the black and white backdrop to indicate inflammation and the need to be removed, wisdom teeth, teeth, tooth, jaw, mouth, human mouth, inflammation, pain, red, medical, oral

If you’re starting to get jaw pain in the back of your mouth or tenderness in your gums, you may be wondering if it’s time to have your wisdom teeth removed.

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Before you go rushing to make an appointment for oral surgery, you should know that wisdom teeth removal isn’t always necessary.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are also called the third molars. They’re located at the very back of the mouth and don’t really serve any purpose. When our primitive ancestors ate mostly raw plants, hard nuts and tough meat, these back teeth were needed to grind the food up. Modern diets and cooking techniques mean we no longer need them.

When Do Wisdom Teeth Generally Come In?

Wisdom teeth usually erupt, or grow in, between the ages of 17 and 25. If they’re fully impacted, meaning they haven’t grown through the gums, you won’t be able to see them. However, you may still be able to feel the pain.

Not everyone is born with all their wisdom teeth. It’s most common to have two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw, but some people have fewer. It’s also possible to have more than four wisdom teeth. These extras are called supernumerary teeth and will typically grow in after the first wisdom teeth are removed. Studies estimate that around 2% of people have supernumerary teeth. Between 5% and 37% of people are lucky enough not to have wisdom teeth at all.

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Do You Need to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. The National Institutes of Health report that there are no scientifically proven benefits to removing wisdom teeth if they’re not causing problems and are unlikely to cause problems in the future.

Wisdom teeth that don’t come through properly can cause gum disease, infection, cavities and damage to the neighboring teeth. In these instances, they usually do need to be removed. If you start to feel pain, make an appointment with your dentist. They’ll be able to see if it’s due to wisdom teeth and can discuss your options with you. Keep in mind that some dentists believe it’s easier to take out wisdom teeth when a person is young. This is because the roots haven’t finished developing. This is why some dentists recommend taking them out when they first appear, especially if there’s a chance of future complications.

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What Are Some Reasons You May Not Need to Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

If your wisdom teeth are aligned with your other teeth, there’s no need to do anything with them. You may still feel soreness and jaw pain as they break through your gums, but as long as there’s no infection, they can remain where they are.

If there’s no reason for wisdom tooth removal, you may wish to avoid the procedure. Having them removed is unpleasant and can cause side effects. Most people experience pain and swelling after their oral surgery. More serious complications of a removal can include:

  • Excessive bleeding: When the site doesn’t heal properly
  • Infection: When bacteria enter the wound, causing a high temperature, discharge and persistent pain and swelling
  • Dry socket: When the blood clot becomes dislodged from the tooth socket or fails to develop, leaving the bone and nerves exposed
  • Nerve Injury: Causing tingling or numbness

While painful and unpleasant, most side effects are temporary. However, around 1% of people experience permanent problems from their surgery, such as numbness or damage to nearby teeth. Depending on how involved the surgery is, you may also need general anesthetic, which also carries a risk of complication.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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