Wisdom teeth can be harmless. Sometimes they don't even emerge. However, most times wisdom teeth must be removed before they cause other problems, like misalignment.
Studies suggest wisdom teeth might have emerged as a step in our evolution. Our ancestors ate lots of hard foods like hard nuts, berries, meat, and leaves, and our wisdom teeth helped us tear through them without too much effort. Further down the line, however, these extra molars were no longer needed. Humans discovered fire and learned to prepare their food.
Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
Only 35 percent of people do not have wisdom teeth. According to some theories, this is due to the evolution of the jaw structure. Those who lack wisdom teeth are said to have more evolved jaws. Other claims linked the non-development of wisdom teeth to ethnicity, pointing to indigenous Mexicans who never had wisdom teeth.
Common Scenarios for Extracting Wisdom Teeth
Under the gums, your wisdom teeth can find themselves in an array of positions. They can grow upright, for one, where they don't interfere with the development of other teeth. When they do develop like this, taking out your wisdom teeth becomes a matter of choice.
However, there are times when the teeth may grow in other directions. They can grow crookedly either towards or opposite the front of the mouth. They can grow horizontally, lying 90 degrees on its side. And they can fail to emerge out of the gums altogether, becoming impacted teeth.
When wisdom teeth grow this way, they're likely to get in contact with the teeth adjacent to them. When they do, they're prone to move around the other teeth, causing pain and alignment problems. And if you have an impacted tooth, you could be at risk of pericoronitis, a painful wisdom tooth infection where the tissues around the tooth become inflamed.
Additionally, if you wait until later in life to get your wisdom teeth extracted, you might experience pain from misaligned teeth or nerve damage, the latter of which is more common in older patients.
Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Taken Out?
Our jaws are small and can usually hold 28 teeth, which are less than the number of teeth that develop. Because of this, the spacing may become an issue. When the wisdom tooth erupts, there's not enough room for the tooth to fully develop. This is called an impacted tooth. Sometimes, impacted teeth damage the roots of other teeth in the mouth.
At a minimum, spacing problems in the mouth can make brushing and flossing more difficult. On the other end of the spectrum, impacted wisdom teeth could increase one's chances of developing a cyst or tumor, which could, in turn damage nerves or jaw bone.
Consume very soft or liquid meals while the area is still tender and painful. Be careful with what you eat to ensure you don't harm the healing area after wisdom tooth removal. Opt for sugarless smoothies, soups, and other liquid-y or soft foods for a while until the wound(s) begin to show improvements.
Get plenty of sleep to allow quicker healing. With good sleep comes a better immune system capable of working long and hard to ensure your wisdom tooth wounds heal as they're supposed to and as quickly as they should.
Apply ice to the area to bring down swelling. It's likely your mouth will slightly swell after wisdom tooth extraction. To help with the swelling and to numb a bit of the pain, opt for an ice pack. Also, consider keeping frozen water pops or ice cubes in your mouth to numb the area more directly as well. Do not suck on the ice or ice pops.
Don't participate in strenuous activities while recovering. Participating in strenuous activities is not ideal as the body is in a state of recovery. Sure, it may be "just your mouth," but any injury requires plenty of downtimes, especially the first few days. In addition to strenuous activities, try not to talk too much in order to give the mouth bit of a break.
Be careful when brushing your teeth. As always, it's important to participate in oral hygiene routines, but with your mouth in a state of healing, it's vital that you don't aggressively brush your teeth as this could cause problems with the healing wounds. Clean your teeth enough to clean them, but don't overdo it.
Even More about Wisdom Teeth
- Your third molars must be removed 85 percent of the time as they often become problematic. However, some lucky folks can keep them as long as they aren't affecting eating, speaking, how the arrangement of other teeth.
- Most people who do develop wisdom teeth develop all four. However, some may develop less than four wisdom teeth.
- Wisdom teeth develop once the dental arch gets larger or "matures," which doesn't occur until around age 17 to 25 - usually 17 to 21 on average.
- When one needs to have their wisdom teeth removed depends primarily on the individual, how far along their wisdom teeth have developed, and how severely the wisdom teeth are negatively affecting the mouth.
- Before anesthesia, very few folks had their wisdom teeth removed. However, thanks to anesthesia, we can have our third molars removed and won't remember or feel anything during the procedure. This is comforting to many.
- Wisdom teeth aren't particularly important. We can function just fine without them. In fact, wisdom teeth typically cause more harm than good. However, after wisdom tooth removal is completed and healed, problems initially caused by the wisdom teeth are gone, and the mouth is back to normal as expected.