When Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Necessary?

Sometimes it’s readily apparent when your (or your child’s) wisdom teeth need to be removed. If they were causing you pain, for example, or they had noticeable cavities or significant tooth decay, you probably wouldn’t hesitate to have them taken out.

But if they’re not causing pain or other visible problems and your dentist has recommended removal, you may be wondering whether the procedure is really necessary. They don’t hurt, so why deal with the discomfort and inconvenience of surgery?

Even if wisdom teeth don’t hurt, there are still situations where they ought to be removed sooner rather than later. If one of the following describes yours, it’s a good idea to get those pesky third molars checked before they cause further trouble down the line.

1. They’re completely impacted

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted, or hidden underneath the gums, can often cause a lot of damage without ever becoming visible in your mouth. Depending on the angle they come in at, they can push against adjacent teeth, damaging the roots and causing additional dental work.

Worse yet, impacted wisdom teeth can cause fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, to form in your mouth. These cysts can hollow out your jaw, damage nerves and even lead to tumors. While treatable, any of these problems can cause permanent damage.

2. They’re partially impacted

Partially impacted wisdom teeth begin to poke through your gums, but don’t have enough room to come in fully. Inflammation and swelling in this intermediate stage is especially common, resulting in teeth that are difficult or impossible to clean properly.

The position of partially impacted teeth can also cause pockets to form between them and adjacent teeth, creating space for bacteria to grow and eat away at the enamel and other hard tissues underneath.

3. They’re crowding the teeth around them

Despite their distinctive name, wisdom teeth are just a third set of molars. In some cases, they’re able to come in fully by pushing the first and second molars out of the way. This aggressive movement can damage the teeth that were already there and cause unflattering misalignment necessitating braces, orthodontic surgery or other corrective measures.

The sooner the better

If your child needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, it may be tempting to delay the procedure. Don’t!

Children’s teeth and jaws continue to develop into young adulthood. Removing wisdom teeth early, before the roots finish forming and while the jaw is softer, makes the procedure easier and more comfortable. Older patients are more likely to experience temporary or lasting side effects from the surgery.