In your lifetime, your mouth is continuously changing. A dental milestone individuals typically experience between 17 and 21 years of age is the growth of their wisdom teeth, or third molars. They’re called “wisdom” teeth because they appear at a mature age.
You've heard it before — when your wisdom teeth come in, you need to have them removed, or they'll cause you problems. The truth is not everyone ends up having to have their wisdom teeth removed. In fact, there are a ton of myths out there about what wisdom teeth are, why you should have them removed, how "awful" the extraction procedure is and more.
Chances are, a lot of your information about your third molars come from your family and friends, or just plain hearsay. The information being tossed around by different people could be myths or facts, but it’s hard to tell — unless you're getting your information from a reputable source, like your dentist or oral surgeon.
Here, we're going to be debunking myths about wisdom teeth and giving you the facts instead. And some myths about wisdom teeth aren’t myths at all.
Myths About Wisdom Teeth Themselves
Some of the misleading information going around about wisdom teeth is the myths about wisdom teeth themselves. Here are some of those myths, and the reality.
Myth 1: Everyone Has Wisdom Teeth
In Reality: Not all people get their wisdom teeth. Some individuals have wisdom teeth underneath their gums that never erupt. Others may have one or two erupt, and some don't have any at all. All of these scenarios are acceptable unless you begin experiencing problems with these teeth.
The truth is, around 35 percent of the population have no wisdom teeth — these individuals were never born with them. You can't know for sure if you have them or not until your dentist takes some x-rays of your teeth when you're between the ages of 17 and 25.
Myth 2: You Know If You Have Wisdom Teeth
In Reality: This is not always the case. Just because you can't see your third molars doesn't mean you don't have them. The reason behind this is because your jawbone or soft tissue could enclose your wisdom teeth.
So, to reveal any hidden teeth, our dentist will take an x-ray. The x-ray will also show if you're having any potential issues with the growth of these teeth as well.
Myth 3: Everyone Needs to Have Their wisdom Teeth Removed
In Reality: This is also false – wisdom teeth don't always need to come out. Many people believe if they don't have their wisdom teeth taken out, they'll cause crowding or become impacted and painful. They also believe this is why they require braces or orthodontic treatment.
These are also not true in all cases. Although wisdom teeth could be contributing to crowding and lead to discomfort and pain, some individuals never have problems with their third molars. Instead, their teeth are healthy and come in properly positioned.
A study showed there are 10 million wisdom teeth extractions every year from five million individuals. Out of these extractions, 60 percent aren't even needed. If your third molars come in properly aligned and healthy, there's no reason you should have them removed.
However, there are times when extraction might be necessary. These instances include:
Damage to other teeth
Dental work and diet could also contribute to impacted wisdom teeth. Historically, people who consumed a tough diet had more wear on their teeth, which caused their teeth to drift and room for their wisdom teeth.
These days, our diets are much better for our teeth. There's also better dental care available, including braces and retainers, providing you with healthier and straighter teeth, but not a whole lot of room for wisdom teeth. Therefore, the wisdom teeth don't emerge until the dental arch grows bigger and only if there's room. Your wisdom teeth can cause problems if there isn't enough space for them to emerge or if they erupt improperly positioned. If your teeth are trapped under your gums or jaw, they are impacted and require oral surgery.
As your third molars come in through your gums, the dentist will monitor your mouth for the following signs:
Wisdom teeth not coming in properly, leading to difficulty flossing between your molars and wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth not positioned correctly, causing food to become trapped, giving cavity-causing bacteria a place to grow.
Wisdom teeth coming through without enough room, leading to crowding or potential damage to nearby teeth.
Wisdom teeth coming in partially, providing bacteria a way into your gums, creating an opportunity for infection.
Impacted wisdom teeth forming a cyst near or on the impacted teeth, potentially destroying the bone supporting your teeth or damaging the roots of your neighboring teeth.
Each is unique, but basically, your wisdom teeth will need to come out only when your dentist sees evidence of potential problems.
Myth 4: Wisdom Teeth Have No Purpose
In Realty: Wisdom teeth perform the same work as your other teeth — making chewing easier. Anthropologists believe that humans historically needed wisdom teeth to consume rough and coarse food like tough roots, meat and leaves that required more chewing effort.
Today's diets, however, consist of softer foods and utensils to cut our food, making it easier to chew and eat food without the use of wisdom teeth. In fact, evolutionary biologists say wisdom teeth have become functionless.
Myths About Getting Wisdom Teeth Removed
There are also myths swirling around about having wisdom teeth taken out. Here are some wisdom tooth removal myths.
Myth 1: Extracting Wisdom Teeth Is Dangerous
In Reality: While wisdom teeth extraction is a type of surgery and there are risks to all surgeries, removing wisdom teeth is a common and fairly safe procedure. Usually patients having their wisdom teeth removed don't have any complications. Your oral surgeon will go over any risks related to wisdom teeth extraction.
Myth 2: Pain-Free Impacted Wisdom Don’t Need Removing
In Reality: Just because your impacted wisdom teeth are painless doesn’t mean they are disease or problem-free. Complications, such as damage to neighboring teeth, cysts formation and infection can occur in impacted wisdom teeth. If a cyst develops, it can lead to your jaw hallowing or damage to nearby nerves.
Myth 3: Dry Sockets Occurs With Every Wisdom Tooth Extraction
In Reality: The truth about wisdom tooth extraction is while it could lead to dry socket, only two to five percent of individuals develop it after they have their wisdom teeth removed.
But certain factors could increase your risk of having a dry socket after a wisdom tooth extraction. These include:
Your oral health is poor.
Your tooth extraction was difficult.
You use tobacco or smoke.
You drink from a straw following your extraction.
You’ve had dry socket before.
You don’t properly care for your mouth following your extraction.
You have an underlying health condition such as Diabetes.
Myth 4: Wisdom Teeth Removal Is Necessary Before Orthodontic Work
In Reality: Your third molars can cause shifting of your other teeth, which is why your dentist may recommend having them removed before you have any orthodontic work done. But orthodontic work can occur without having your wisdom teeth removed.
Myth 5: Wisdom Teeth Have a Low Pathology Incidence Rate
In Reality: One study of individuals between 14 and 45 years old who had four impacted, asymptomatic wisdom teeth found 25 percent of the study participants had periodontal disease. In the same study, 24 percent of the individuals who kept their wisdom teeth developed periodontal disease that progressed.
Myth 6: Early Wisdom Tooth Removal Isn’t Always Better
In Reality: As you age, removing your wisdom teeth becomes increasingly difficult with a more challenging surgery, leading to a more extended recovery period after the extraction, according to a study published in the Journal of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery.
Wisdom teeth are easier to remove when you're younger because the surrounding bone is softer, roots haven’t completely implanted, and there is less risk of damaging nearby structures and nerves. If your oral surgeon removes your wisdom teeth at an older age, it could be more complicated since the roots are fully formed, the jawbone is denser, and nerves may be involved.
Myth 7: The Removal of Wisdom Teeth Doesn’t Impact Your Remaining Teeth
In Reality: After the removal of the third molar, the periodontal health of the adjacent teeth improved or remained stable 90 percent of the time, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Myths About Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery
As we’re still debunking myths about wisdom teeth, you’ll also come across myths about recovering from your wisdom teeth removal procedure, including the following:
Myth 1: You Can’t Eat Anything the First Two Days After Extraction
In Reality: Of course you can eat food after your third molar extraction procedure. While you can't eat hard foods for the first day or two after your wisdom tooth removal, you can eat soft foods like applesauce, ice cream and yogurt. Your oral surgeon will be happy to provide you with a list of foods you can eat after your surgery.
Once you can tolerate semi-soft foods, you can begin eating those as well. Avoid chewy, hard, spicy or hot foods since they can irritate the wound or become stuck in the socket.
Myth 2: You Can’t Brush Your Teeth After Wisdom Tooth Extraction for a Week
In Reality: While you don't want to brush your teeth, spit, use mouthwash or rinse your mouth for the first 24 hours following your extraction, you can brush your teeth after the first 24 hours of your surgery.
You need to be very gentle near the extraction area when you brush and rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water every couple of hours after each meal for about a week.
Myth 3: Drinking and Smoking Cause No Harm After Extractions
In Reality: When your dentist tells you not to drink or smoke after any tooth extraction, they mean it. And, while many people think their dentists warn against this as a precaution only, drinking and smoking after your wisdom tooth extraction can cause a lot of pain.
After your extraction, clotting forms at the extraction area and these clots need to stay intact. If you don't allow them to heal properly and they become dislodged, it can lead to dry socket — an extremely painful infection. Drinking and smoking increase your risk of dry socket significantly.
Smoking is harmful to your health anyway. Therefore it isn't surprising it can affect your oral health. Smoking not only causes bad breath, but it can also impact your oral health in many ways, including:
Dulling your sense of smell and taste
Staining your tongue and teeth
Causing cosmetic dental problems
Increasing your risk of oral cancer
Causing tooth loss and gum disease
Leading to slow oral surgery or tooth extraction healing and recovery
Your best option to reduce your risk of these oral health concerns is to quit smoking altogether. If you must smoke, wait for a minimum of 72 hours after your extraction, and even longer if possible. Don’t chew tobacco for at least a week after your surgery since using any tobacco product after you’ve just had oral surgery may increase the risk of complications and delay healing.
Myth 4: Milkshakes and Ice Cream Are Bad to Eat After Wisdom Tooth Removal
In Reality: Ice cream and milkshakes excellent to eat after your tooth extraction. They are soft and easier to ingest. And since they're cold, they also help soothe the swelling and pain you may experience after a wisdom tooth extraction. Foods such as ice cream, yogurt and cottage cheese are full of protein and vitamins to aid in wound healing. Just be sure you don't drink your milkshakes with a straw as the suction can dislodge the clots in the extraction areas.
Get the Facts About Wisdom Teeth and Their Removal
If you're concerned with your wisdom teeth, consult with your dentist. They'll go over numerous management choices for your wisdom teeth which could include:
Partial or complete removal
Retention with radiographic and active clinical surveillance, called a coronectomy
Opening a cyst to allow drainage with monitoring and potential secondary treatment
If you're considering potential management choices other than extraction of your wisdom teeth, your dentist will likely take into consideration the potential for future problems or disease.
Your wisdom teeth don’t necessarily need to come out. For instance, you may not need to have them removed if they:
Grow in completely
Are in proper alignment
Are in a hygienic environment
Are embedded with healthy gum tissue
However, they will still require regular cleaning — both at home and professionally — and periodic X-rays and annual checkups to monitor for any changes.
If you don't have your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist will monitor them since they could still lead to potential future problems. Also, as you age, your risk of issues with your wisdom teeth increases. Therefore, you should make regular dental appointments, so the dentist can monitor them, determine if they will come in properly or cause problems and evaluate your oral health.
Contact Nirvana Dental for Wisdom Tooth Removal Services
Your wisdom teeth are the same as your other teeth. Removing them is just as safe as removing any of your other teeth, and many of the myths surrounding wisdom teeth are unfounded. Recovering from wisdom tooth surgery is also not as bad as some folktales lead people to believe.
Here at Nirvana Dental, we’ve helped to clarify some of the myths encompassing wisdom teeth and their removal. We’re happy to answer your questions and offer you our wisdom tooth removal services. Call today to book your initial consultation.