It used to be that having wisdom teeth removed was routine for older teens or young adults. There’s long been controversy about whether removal is absolutely necessary.
Why Wisdom Teeth – the Third Molars?
A little bit of background helps to understand how we came to have wisdom teeth.
Historians tell us that the extra set of grinding teeth at the back of the mouth helped ancient man chew the tough meat, barks, twigs and roots that made up their diet. Today, of course, there is no longer a need for that extra tooth power.
What’s the Problem with Wisdom Teeth?
While our primary and permanent teeth are in place in our jaws when we are born, wisdom teeth are the only ones that develop after birth. That means children are usually born with the appropriate spacing for the teeth before the wisdom teeth grow in at about 17 to 24 years old.
Wisdom teeth may become “impacted” or squeezed into a too-small space, causing pain or inflammation. On the other hand, wisdom teeth may become impacted but with no additional problems. In either case, this is the time to talk with your child’s dentist or oral surgeon to help decide whether extraction is the best course to take.
Wisdom Tooth Removal – Pros
- Wisdom teeth that are impacted (stuck under the gum) and cause pain, infection or damage to other teeth should be removed.
- Wisdom teeth that are “semi-impacted” (poke through the gum only partially) present a higher risk of infection and decay over the long term and may be removed.
Wisdom Tooth Removal – Cons
- Wisdom teeth that are impacted but show no additional problems should not be removed.
- There is no need to extract the remaining symptom-free wisdom teeth when only one has a problem.
Often, the Decision is Up to You
Your discussions with your child’s dentist and oral surgeon should include a thorough review of the pros and cons of removal. Make the decision that you feel is best for your child. Even though wisdom teeth do not always require extraction, they can still be at risk of tooth decay and should be checked by a dentist frequently to ensure they remain disease and decay free.