Is there wisdom in the removal of wisdom teeth?

The extraction of wisdom teeth, or "third molars" as referred to by many dentists, is a long-established practice verging on a rite of passage for many people. The procedure is so common that in any given year over 10 million wisdom teeth are removed from patients every year.

Yes, that's a lot of teeth.

Traditional wisdom, however, on the necessity or effectiveness of removing these troublesome teeth has faced several questions over the last several years.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

Third molars, what are more commonly referred to as wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars located at the very back of your mouth. Most people have two adjacent sets of wisdom teeth - two teeth in the upper jaw and two in the lower - for a total of four wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people, these extra wisdom teeth are nothing but vestigial teeth from a far distant past. For most of us, they are or will become some point nothing but trouble.

In the ancient past, our ancestors relied on these change molars to grind up tough roots, nuts, and muscly meats. Once we learned how to farm staple grains such as barley, rice, and wheat, and discovered that cooking food was a great idea, our need for such strong jaws and extra teeth disappeared. Since then our mouths have been shrinking resulting in jawbones that clearly don’t provide sufficient space for all our teeth.

Wisdom teeth symptoms

The result of having too little space for all of our teeth is dental chaos. Due to the lack of available space, wisdom teeth are often on a collision course with adjoining teeth as they grow out in a troublesome process known as impaction.

There are three comprehensive classifications of impacted wisdom teeth:

  1. Soft-tissue impaction
  2. Partial bony impaction
  3. Complete bony impaction

During the first, the crown of the tooth has pierced through the jawbone but is still shielded by the gums.

In the case of partial bony impaction, a portion of the tooth remains below the surface in the jawbone.

Finally, during complete bony impaction, the wisdom tooth in question remains entirely enclosed in the jawbone.

In all three cases, impaction of the teeth can result in bleeding, dental crowding, localized pain and swelling known as pericoronitis, and periodontitis. Additional issues associated with wisdom teeth include partial eruptions in which a third molar only partially emerges resulting in a flap of tissue that can become a nest or breeding ground for food debris, bacteria, and potentially, the site of harsh infections. In scarce cases, cysts and tumors can also form as a result of wisdom teeth emergence.

Traditional wisdom in question

Despite universal agreement that removal is the best course of action for impacted wisdom teeth, there is less concurrence about what to do with wisdom teeth that are not impacted or partially erupted. Research suggests that only 12 percent of impacted teeth result in any pathology. To put that in perspective, the appendix, another seemingly useless remaining body part, has an incidence rate of pathology at 10 percent. Yet, most people don’t yield themselves to inherently risky medical procedures to have it preemptively removed. Surgery can itself have unintended negative consequences including bleeding, infection, numbness, and in extremely rare cases, paresthesia due to severe nerve damage. As a result, there are some in the medical and dental community who suggest that the same circumspection by doctors and patients that would apply to an appendectomy should also be considered in the practice of removing wisdom teeth. It is important to have a consultation with a dental professional to determine whether or not wisdom teeth should be removed. In the end, it is a judgment call by both the dentist and patient to determine the advantages or consequences of removal.

When should I consider wisdom teeth removal?

You should consider removal of your wisdom teeth if they are impacted or causing pain and discomfort. Many dental professionals recommend extracting wisdom teeth before impaction occurs or other complications arise. Many believe it is far better to extract them before they cause serious pain and difficulties. Most people who decide to have their wisdom teeth removed have their third molars extracted between the ages of 18 and 25 before the wisdom teeth become completely impacted. The decision on whether or not to extract and remove one, two, or even all of your wisdom teeth will have to be a conversation between the patient and their dentist.

Wisdom teeth removal cost

The costs of removing wisdom teeth will vary based on many factors including the complexity, health, and other dental concerns of the patient. What each patient pays out of pocket will also vary depending on what insurance, or lack thereof, he or she has. One strategy many patients seek is to have all their wisdom teeth, even those that aren’t causing any issues at the moment, removed in one appointment in order to pay for the administration of local anesthetics on one occurrence. Extraction costs most often vary depending on the difficulty of the procedure in addition to a variety of concerns. To get a better idea of the costs of such a procedure, contact Dr. Reza Khazaie of Willow Pass Dental Care in Concord, California.

Do you need your wisdom teeth removed? Schedule a consultation with renowned Prosthodontist, Dr. Reza Khazaie by calling Willow Pass Dental Care in Concord, CA at 925-326-6114 or by clicking on the Schedule An Appointment button below.