Common Myths about Wisdom Teeth

Many people have had their own experiences with wisdom teeth.  This can lead to certain generalizations that are not necessarily true for everyone.  Some of this misinformation can cause people to make the wrong assumptions about wisdom teeth.  We will debunk several of those myths in this week’s blog.

Myth #1: Everyone has wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars, are the last molars in the mouth.  We call them wisdom teeth because they usually come through the gums between ages 18 to 25 years.  They are the third molars because they come in behind and after the first (6-year) and second (12-year) molars.

While most people do develop wisdom teeth, they are also the most commonly missing teeth in the mouth.  Many people simply do not form these molars.  Molars typically come in sets of four, with one occurring in each quadrant of the mouth.  With wisdom teeth, you never know how many you’re going to get.  Some people are missing only one, others have just the upper or lower wisdom teeth, and some have none at all.  So, no . . . everyone does not have wisdom teeth.

Myth #2: Everyone must have wisdom teeth extracted.

The need for extraction of wisdom teeth depends on multiple factors, including the angulation of the wisdom teeth, the size of the jaws, and the person’s ability to clean them.  Because most people have a problem in at least one of these areas, most people need to have the wisdom teeth removed.

There are some, though, who can meet all of the requirements for maintaining healthy wisdom teeth and can therefore keep theirs.  These are people who have wisdom teeth with the correct, upright angulation (not tilted and aimed at an adjacent tooth’s roots), upper and lower jaws that are large enough to allow the wisdom teeth to fit into the dental arch, and the ability to reach these teeth and properly clean them.  So, no . . . everyone does not have to have their wisdom teeth extracted.

Myth #3: Wisdom teeth make your front teeth crooked.

This is a very common myth.  The idea is that the pressure of the wisdom teeth trying to push their way into the mouth would crowd the front teeth.  While wisdom teeth can put pressure on the second molars (the teeth directly in front of them), it is unlikely that this pressure is transferred from tooth to tooth all the way to the front of the mouth.

Why do people begin experiencing crowding around the time wisdom teeth are coming in, then?

The answer is that teeth are naturally prone to moving forward as we age.  The wisdom teeth are not the force behind this.  The proof is seen in all the people who did have wisdom teeth removed and still develop crowding in their front teeth.  This process is more common in those who had orthodontic treatment (braces) for crowding during childhood, but it can actually occur in anyone’s mouth.

Myth #4: You must be sedated for wisdom teeth extractions.

Most people assume that you have to be “put to sleep” to have wisdom teeth extracted.  While sedation can make the procedure much simpler for both patient and dentist, it is not a requirement.  In fact, we know some patients who refuse to extract their wisdom teeth simply because they are afraid of sedation.

The removal of wisdom teeth does require local anesthetic, which removes the sensation of pain from the surgical site.  You can be wide-awake with a completely numb mouth for the extraction of wisdom teeth.

You can also remove the wisdom teeth one at a time.  Removing all four at once, again, is simpler but not a requirement.

Myth #5: You have to go to an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth extractions.

Many dentists choose to refer patients for wisdom teeth extractions to oral surgeons, but again, this is not a requirement.  In the realm of general dentistry, dentists have the opportunity to choose which procedures they perform and which ones they refer to specialists.  It may be that your general dentist has extensive training and skills in the area of oral surgery.  Dr. Chowning is just such a dentist!

In every situation, he considers what is best for each individual patient, so he will discuss with you whether removal in our office or referral to an oral surgeon is the best option.

More Questions about Wisdom Teeth?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any questions you have about wisdom teeth and assess your individual situation.

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