Does your child need their wisdom teeth extracted? This is a good question to ask. And as experienced dental professionals, we have an answer for you.
But it’s a little more complicated than a simple Yes or No. So, we want to talk a little about wisdom teeth and what they are before we answer this question.
Wisdom teeth are the four permanent teeth located at the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom.
Wisdom teeth are also known as third molars. They begin forming around your 10th birthday. And, usually, they come in between the ages of 17 and 25 — a time that has been called the “Age of Wisdom.” It’s called this because people graduate high school and college during these years and are said to become (or at least think they are) wiser.
Some people never get their wisdom teeth. This is a term called hypodontia. The most common tooth to be missing is the wisdom tooth. There are other times when the wisdom tooth never erupts, which is called a full impaction, or breaks through only part way (a partial impaction). And every once in a while, people are even born with extra wisdom teeth called paramolars..
Most mouths are too small for even the four extra teeth. So, you’re probably wondering, “Why do we have wisdom teeth?”
Anthropologists believe our ancestors had wisdom teeth to help them eat their diet of coarse, rough food. Now, the modern diet has softer foods, along with utensils to help us eat. Our ancestors also tended to lose teeth, so a third set of molars had enough room to grow.
Additionally, our jaws have been getting smaller over thousands of years.
Today, wisdom teeth are classified as vestigial organs, or body parts that have become functionless due to evolution.
Why wisdom teeth need to be extracted
Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure to remove one or more wisdom teeth. A dentist or an oral surgeon can do the surgery. According to a study, 10 million wisdom teeth are removed each year from five million people.
Deciding whether to have wisdom teeth removed can be difficult because there are still a lot of unanswered questions about wisdom teeth.
When a tooth doesn’t fully grow in, it is impacted. This means the tooth is unable to break through the gums because it doesn’t have room to grow. Ninety percent of people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.
An impacted wisdom tooth can damage neighboring teeth or become infected. It’s also a hard area to clean, so bacteria can form, leading to gum disease. In some cases, a cyst (fluid-filled sac) or a tumor can form around the base of the impacted tooth, which can lead to more serious problems as it affects the jaw and damages surrounding nerves, teeth, and other parts of your mouth or face.
When should wisdom teeth definitely be removed?
If your child is experiencing one or more of the following, they will most likely need one of more of their wisdom teeth taken out.
- If they are painful. Pain will likely be felt in the area the teeth erupt (or come in).
- If they are causing problems to other teeth. Sometimes, they might not be causing problems at the time. But X-rays will show they might at a later time.
- If they are causing damage to other teeth. The extra teeth can push the other teeth around, causing mouth pain and bite problems.
- If they are causing persistent bad breath. Partially erupted wisdom teeth can trap food, causing bad breath.
- If they are causing sinus issues. Problems with wisdom teeth can sometimes lead to sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.
- If the gums are inflamed. The tissue around the area can swell and may become hard to clean. In this case, your child may have an infection or gum disease.
- If there is tooth decay in a partially erupted tooth. If there is decay, the tooth might be discolored in a spot or be sensitive to cold. But often tooth decay doesn’t cause symptoms.
- If cavities form nearby the teeth. Swollen gums can create pockets between teeth that bacteria can grow in, causing cavities to form.
- If the alignment of the mouth is affected. Impacted wisdom teeth can undo the effect of braces or any type of dental work.
To prevent further problems, sometimes wisdom tooth extraction is recommended even if the impacted teeth are not causing problems. Even for a dentist, it is difficult to predict future problems with wisdom teeth. But a dentist should always examine your child’s mouth if you think their wisdom teeth are coming in.
Here are some reasons why wisdom teeth may need to come out even if they don’t hurt or show symptoms:
- Wisdom teeth may still carry disease even if they are symptom free.
- If there isn’t enough space for a tooth to fully come in, it can be hard to reach the tooth and properly clean it.
- Serious complications with wisdom teeth happen less often in younger adults.
- As your child ages, the bones in his or her mouth will get harder, the wisdom tooth will continue to grow long roots, which will make the teeth harder to remove.
- Older adults may experience difficulty with surgery and complications after surgery.
Wisdom teeth may not need to be extracted if they grow in fully, are functional, and painless, and free of cavities and diseases. The teeth will need regular, professional cleaning, annual checkups, and periodic X-rays to check for any changes.
Making the decision to have your child’s wisdom teeth extracted
You should talk to your dentist about your child’s wisdom teeth. But the best time to get wisdom teeth removed is when they are about two-thirds formed, usually between the ages of 15 to 18.
Wisdom tooth surgery involves removing the gum tissue around the tooth and the connective tissue between the tooth and bone. Then, the dentist will remove the tooth and suture (or sew) the opening in the gum line. Your child will be put under anesthesia to help ease the pain. And the operation shouldn’t take more than an hour.
Waiting to see your dentist about impacted teeth can be costly and painful. So you don’t want to ignore your child’s wisdom teeth.
A visit to the dentist is your best option. A dentist will checkout the level of impact the wisdom teeth are having on the mouth and determine the best course of action to take.
Choose Dental Town for your child’s dental care in Alpharetta, Canton, Cumming, or Johns Creek
If you think your child might need a wisdom teeth extraction, our dental office can help you and your child make this important decision. We have 4 convenient locations, so no matter where you are in the North Atlanta area, your child will receive the very best dental care.
Please contact us with any questions, and we can setup an appointment for your child.