A Wise Approach to Wisdom Teeth

wisdom teeth

Get the facts about wisdom teeth! When it comes to these third molars, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Learn what you need to know about wisdom teeth so you can receive the treatment you need, when you need it. Contrary to popular opinion, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed.  These teeth erupt in different positions, places, times and in number. Some people will have all four, some will only have two. Some people never have them develop at all. Choosing to ignore the existence of wisdom teeth is not a wise approach to your oral health.  Through patient education and an in-office exam, we can help you determine treatment.


How They Got Their Name

Do wisdom teeth make you wiser? Why are they called wisdom teeth? Do you know? In the 17th century, the third and last molars were the last to erupt on each side of the upper and lower jaws.  They were called “the teeth of wisdom.” After a couple centuries, this term later changed to  “wisdom teeth.” Linguists believe the term  “wisdom teeth” had to do with the ages that these molars typically arrived (17-25) when one is maturing into adulthood and becoming “wiser.”


Why Remove Them?

There are four main reasons that wisdom teeth are extracted. They are: impaction, overcrowding, pericoronitis, and prevention. Learn about each reason so you can better learn why extraction is something you need to consult with your doctor about.



To avoid pain and prevent damage to neighboring teeth, the majority of dentists will recommend that you have impacted wisdom teeth taken out. While you may not be noticing any apparent or immediate problems, impacted teeth complicate the cleaning process making wisdom teeth easy targets for tooth decay and gum disease which can spread to surrounding teeth and cause problems as well. An “impacted” tooth is defined as one that doesn’t have enough room to emerge or develop as it should. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports about 90 percent of patients have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, meaning there’s not substantial space for it to erupt through the gums.



Overcrowding in your mouth is a common reason that wisdom teeth are extracted.  Because of their late arrival in your mouth, your permanent teeth are already in place and will be displaced if the wisdom teeth attempt to erupt. All mouths are different, however. Some patients have enough room for these teeth to erupt without causing bite problems or affecting the other teeth.



A condition called Pericoronitis, and the associated pain, is the most common reason patients choose to have their wisdom teeth extracted. This condition results from a partially erupted wisdom tooth that disrupts your gum tissue, creating a gum flap-trap.  When you consume food, particles get trapped under the flap of gum that is covering the partially erupted wisdom tooth.  This trapped food can cause swelling, and infection called Pericoronitis.



Because there is no guarantee that you are going to escape some of the problems most commonly associated with these late-arriving molars, most dentists opt for a conservative, preventive approach. You don’t need wisdom teeth so rather than take a risky chance with these teeth, dentists will remove them. Younger mouths heal more quickly than older mouths making the recovery process less uncomfortable. When extracted in your youth, the roots of wisdom teeth are not fully developed yet, and the bone around the teeth is less dense so extraction is also less traumatic to your mouth and surrounding tissues.


Do All Wisdom Teeth Have to Be Removed?

Some wisdom teeth will not be removed because of their proximity to nerves in your mouth. Lower wisdom teeth can be dangerously close to (or embedded in) the neurovascular bundle that runs along your lower jaw. This nerve bundle affects how your tongue feels and tastes and how your jaw and facial muscles move.  Dental x-rays can assess your risk for nerve damage with extraction.  Damage to these nerves can occur during extraction, but only a small percentage have complications. Of that small percentage at least 50% of people who experience nerve damage recover spontaneously.


Call for a Free Consultation

Wisdom teeth extraction has to be determined on a case by case basis and can only really be assessed with a comprehensive exam (including dental x-rays) in our office. Find out if you need to have your wisdom teeth out to prevent complications down the road. Call Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today to make an appointment.   We can talk to you about your particular needs and what to expect from your wisdom teeth extraction appointment and treatment.  Call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-6101. If you need to reach us after regular business hours, you can also send a contact or appointment request online (below) at your convenience.