Wisdom teeth removal isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a good time, and until very recently there was no real universal agreement on who should have their wisdom teeth removed, and when. However, recent studies have finally cleared up the controversy, which means almost everyone should think about scheduling an evaluation appointment at the very least—and the earlier, the better.
When do wisdom teeth come in?
Wisdom teeth usually come in between the ages of 17 and 21. As it happens, that’s also the best age to think about getting them removed. Studies show that wisdom teeth are far more prone to developing disease after the patient reaches the age of 25. Even if the tooth itself doesn’t develop direct problems, we are all prone to developing other problems as we age, such as periodontal disease. These other oral health issues can complicate wisdom teeth removal and increase post-operative problems.
Most patients should consider wisdom teeth removal. It is very rare for a wisdom tooth to grow in perfectly straight and problem-free. It’s far more common to see impacted wisdom teeth, wisdom teeth that crowd your other, more necessary teeth, or problematic partial eruptions.
Why do wisdom teeth cause so many problems?
Even a perfectly straight wisdom tooth can become an issue. Its position in the average mouth makes it extremely difficult to reach with brushing and flossing, which can leave the tooth prone to decay. Partially erupted teeth are some of the worst culprits for this…that tiny tooth piece poking out of your gum can create gum flaps where bacteria and debris get trapped. That area of your mouth can quickly become painfully inflamed.
A tooth that never erupts is likely growing horizontally inside of your gum, which means it’s pushing against the healthy teeth in your mouth, causing crowding. A crowded mouth isn’t just a cosmetic issue! A crowded mouth is also harder to clean and take care of, which can mean other teeth are at risk for decay.
The video below offers a more in-depth explanation.
What kind of post-operative problems can arise when patients wait too long?
Obviously, older patients can have their wisdom teeth removed. We do it every single day. But older patients tend to see a lot more post-operative swelling and pain. Some even have to deal with liquid diets simply because they can’t stand to chew.
That’s not to say that a 17-year old patient won’t have some pain or swelling, but because the mouth is younger and healthier to begin with we typically see patients in their late teens and early twenties recovering much faster.
Early removal isn’t the only consideration. You also need to see the right person.
Yes, general dentists do offer wisdom teeth removal. But it’s not a good idea to schedule a wisdom tooth extraction with a general dentist.
A general dentist is simply not qualified to deliver the proper standard of care for wisdom teeth extraction. An extraction is a form of surgery, and they do not have surgical training.
In fact, over the past decade we have seen a rather disturbing trend. As dentistry becomes more and more “corporate,” we’ve seen general dentists attempting “easy and straightforward” wisdom tooth removal for financial reasons. Unfortunately, these dentists cannot and do not offer the same methods of anesthesia as an oral surgeon would. Nevertheless, they continue to convince patients to get the work done.
Behind closed doors and among fellow industry professionals they refer to this as “picking low-hanging fruit.” Any difficult or high-risk cases are referred to oral surgeons anyway. Unfortunately, this leads to inconsistencies in patient outcomes.
General dentists aren’t always correct, for example, when they decide they’re dealing with an “easy case.” This means they can create unnecessary problems for patients. In addition, their lack of access to adequate anesthesia makes wisdom tooth extraction far more painful than it has to be.
Bottom line: if you want to be sure your mouth is being handled correctly rather than risking it for someone else’s profit, make sure you make an appointment with Dr. Templeton!