No, the staff at North Shore Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery isn’t going into stand-up comedy. Our blog today is meant to talk about the potential negative impact of wisdom teeth on your oral health.
Your wisdom teeth are your third set of molars. Unfortunately, more often than not, they can create big problems for your oral health if they aren’t removed. This is why wisdom teeth extraction is one of the most common procedures that we do at our Buffalo Grove dentist office.
We will try to explain why we have problems with our wisdom teeth, so you will understand why they frequently need to be removed for the sake of your oral health.
What Did Wisdom Teeth Do?
You may have noticed that we phrased our question in the past tense. This is because for most people wisdom teeth no longer serve a practical function.
That was not always the case, however. Anthropologists have compared our ancient ancestors’ jaws with modern humans. They have learned that on average our ancestors had larger jaws than we do today.
Many scientists view wisdom teeth as a vestigial body part, much like our tonsils or our appendix. Those parts once had a function, but they no longer are necessary.
So why did our ancestors need wisdom, and why don’t we?
There are a couple hypotheses about why this may be the case.
One hypothesis is that our ancestors ate a rougher diet. The third molar provided additional surface area to grind food so that it could be swallowed and digested.
Our modern diets include a lot more refined foods, which made the last set of molars extra rather than essential.
Another hypothesis is that our ancestors lost teeth, too. By having a third set of molars that came in later, they had a way of replacing a couple teeth that may have fallen out by that time in their lives.
Regardless of why our jaws are smaller, the practical problem many people face today is that they do not have room for a third set of molars to erupt correctly or completely.
We want to state that any tooth can be impacted, but this is a common problem with wisdom teeth.
So, what is an impacted tooth? It is a tooth that does not erupt correctly. Teeth can be partially impacted, which means they erupt from the gums but not all the way, or they can be completely impacted, which means they remain below the gumline.
Impacted wisdom teeth can be painful, and they can increase your risk for oral infections.
Impacted wisdom teeth can growth toward your existing teeth. This can cause them to push closer together and lead to alignment problems.
Impacted wisdom teeth can grow away from your existing teeth. Wisdom teeth that remain below the gumline can grow perpendicular to your other teeth, pressing into the roots of your teeth.
Impacted teeth can be more vulnerable to tooth decay, and they may increase your risk for gum disease.
When you visit your dentist for routine examinations, one of the reasons they take X-rays is to monitor the growth of wisdom teeth (which generally emerge in your late teens or early 20s). If they see signs that your teeth could become impacted, they often will recommend removal rather than risk long-term oral health problems.
Wisdom Teeth Removal
If you are one of the people whose wisdom teeth erupt correctly, then you should consider yourself lucky.
In general, dentists want our patients to keep as many teeth as they can. Unfortunately, that’s often not possible with wisdom teeth.
We have learned enough about wisdom teeth at this point to know that it’s often not worth the risk of keeping them if it appears likely that yours will cause problems in the future.
By removing them early, you are able to recover more quickly from the procedure, and you often can avoid any serious complications. The longer you leave you wisdom teeth in place, the more complicated the procedure becomes.
We prefer to keep the process as simple as possible.
Whether you need your wisdom teeth removed or someone in your family does, you need to make a wise choice about where you will go for this procedure.
North Shore Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery has served Buffalo Grove and the Chicago area for several years. In that time, our dentist has removed thousands of wisdom teeth safely and effectively.