Why do wisdom teeth become so problematic?

Wisdom teeth are not always problematic. Sometimes they come in without any problems and can remain part of your healthy mouth for a lifetime. Often, though, our mouths don’t have enough room for the wisdom teeth to come in correctly. Modern diets are markedly softer than the diets we evolved eating, which often wore down teeth so there was more room for wisdom teeth when they came in, usually between age 17 and 25. These days, wisdom teeth may grow in sideways, or emerge only partly, or start to come in but get trapped beneath the gum and bone. Wisdom teeth need to be removed if they erupt only partially, leaving an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. They should also be removed if they will damage the teeth next to them. Your dentist can determine this with an x-ray even before the teeth have begun to erupt. Another reason to remove wisdom teeth is if a cyst (a fluid-filled sac) forms, which can damage nearby bone and tooth roots.
Wisdom teeth have a nasty habit of becoming impacted, coming in at a funny angle or growing in an unexpected place.
The poor positioning of the teeth can cause infection and pain. Even if the teeth do come in properly, they still can pose problems later on. The wisdom teeth are hard to clean, so they can rot and infect teeth in the general vicinity. They also can crowd teeth and can undo years of straight alignments that were accomplished by braces.

To avoid problems, dentists often recommend having wisdom teeth extracted from young adults, before the teeth have the opportunity to attach to the jaw and pose complications when they are removed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.