Should You Keep or Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

Man experiencing wisdom tooth pain. posted by Dr. Eric Kimball, DDS on 2/29/2024 in General

Whether you’re looking into wisdom tooth removal for yourself or your child, you may be wondering if you even need to have them removed. Some people may think they should, but that’s not always the case. And others may choose to keep them, not realizing that their wisdom teeth are bringing unwanted health risks. Here are some ways you can tell if you should keep or remove your wisdom teeth. 

First Things First: What Are Wisdom Teeth? 

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the very last adult teeth to erupt. These teeth are located in the very back of the mouth. They are known as “wisdom teeth” because they typically grow between the ages of 17 to 25—the age when wisdom was believed to be gained. In some cases, wisdom teeth erupt later than 25. Most people are born with four wisdom teeth, however, you may have less than four or be lucky enough to be born without them. 

Do You Need Wisdom Teeth? 

No, you don’t need your wisdom teeth. There are also no health benefits to having them removed unless they are causing issues or are likely to in the future. Because it’s common for wisdom teeth to cause problems, many experts recommend removing them to lower the likelihood of the risks listed below. 

How to Know if You Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth

Not everyone needs to get their wisdom teeth removed. You can typically forego wisdom tooth removal if they are healthy, have grown in completely and in the right place, and don’t hinder your bite alignment.

In most instances, wisdom teeth removal is highly recommended. Here are some signs that you may need to remove your wisdom teeth: 

  • Pain and discomfort. Gum pain is a normal part of wisdom teeth eruption. However, if you’re experiencing pain in and around your wisdom teeth or jaw it could be a sign that your wisdom teeth are infected, crowded, or growing at an incorrect angle. 
  • Damage to or pain in surrounding teeth. If your wisdom teeth don’t have enough space to grow in properly, they may damage the surrounding teeth or prevent them from properly developing.
  • Decay and cavities. Adequately taking care of your wisdom teeth can be difficult since they are in a hard-to-reach area. This increases the risk of cavities. If your wisdom teeth have signs of decay, your dentist will likely recommend removal. 
  • Impacted wisdom teeth. If your wisdom teeth don’t grow in and are instead trapped within the jaw under your gums, they are impacted. This could lead to cysts, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth. 
  • Partially erupted wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are hard to reach and clean to begin with. If they are only partially erupted through the gums, this creates openings for bacteria to get into the gums, increasing the risk of infection, cavities, and gum disease

Before jumping straight into pulling your wisdom teeth, your dentist will conduct X-rays and a thorough exam to get a clear look at your wisdom teeth. Then, they will make a recommendation based on their findings and any symptoms you’re experiencing. 

When Should You Remove Your Wisdom Teeth? 

Dentists typically recommend wisdom teeth removal as soon as they emerge—typically between the late teens to early twenties. Wisdom tooth removal for people in this age range is typically safer and easier because the jaw bone is less dense, the roots aren’t fully formed, and recovery is generally quicker. After a certain age (typically around 30 years old), your wisdom teeth’s roots may get long enough to fuse to your jaw bone, making extraction more complicated. This can increase the risk of issues during and after surgery as it complicates the removal process. 

Make Wisdom Tooth Removal a Breeze With Kimball & Beecher

No one wants to go through an unnecessary surgery, and the idea of getting your wisdom teeth removed may be nerve-wracking. At Kimball & Beecher, we wouldn’t recommend wisdom tooth removal unless it is the best decision for your health and well-being. If you’re located in Iowa, come to us for all of your dental needs.

Contact us today at any of our locations or schedule an appointment online

About The Author

Dr. Eric Kimball, DDS

Dr. Eric Kimball practices in our Waterloo office. Dr. Kimball was raised in Independence Iowa and graduated high school there in 1991. After high school we went onto Wartburg College where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biology in 1995. He married his high school sweetheart and now t ... read more

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