Some people keep their wisdom teeth for their entire lives. Other people choose to have their wisdom teeth removed, sometimes before they have emerged through the gums. How do you know if your wisdom teeth need to be removed?

What factors determine if you need wisdom teeth removal?

  • Your dentist may recommend removal of a wisdom tooth if it is crowding your other teeth, causes pain, or has become stuck (impacted) as it tries to emerge. Removal also may be recommended if infection has developed as the tooth is breaking through the gum.
  • Oral surgeons generally advise that wisdom tooth extraction is easier in younger people, when the roots and bone are softer because they are not completely developed. In general, the younger you are when you have your wisdom teeth removed, the easier the procedure will be and the faster you will heal. Some dentists think it is best to have impacted teeth extracted before you are 20 years old, to prevent future problems.
  • You may never have any problems with your wisdom teeth. If you are older than 30 and have not had any wisdom tooth problems, you probably will not have these problems in the future. Wisdom teeth that are healthy and properly positioned do not cause problems.

What are the risks of not having wisdom teeth removal?

If these teeth are not removed, the following problems may develop.

  • Your wisdom teeth may become impacted if there is not room for them.
  • Your risk of developing gum disease or jaw infection is higher if you keep your wisdom teeth.
  • If you have a medical condition that may get worse over time, you may want to have your wisdom teeth removed while you are healthy. Wisdom tooth extraction can be a difficult surgery and poses risks for both minor and major complications.
  • If a fluid sac (cyst) forms around an impacted wisdom tooth, it may permanently damage nearby teeth and the jaw.
  • Corrective and restorative dental work (such as braces and crowns) may be damaged or more difficult for your dentist to do if your wisdom teeth are coming in or have come in.

Should I get my wisdom teeth removed?

Choosing wisdom teeth removal is a decision based on may different factors. These factors can range from areas that you understand best such as your level of comfort with surgery, your current health, and your ability to afford the procedure.

There are also other factors best addressed by your dentist like: is there space for your wisdom teeth, will they align with your other teeth, what is the risk of an impacted tooth.

Jean Brown research is currently conducting a study of an investigational medication to treat pain associated with the extraction of wisdom teeth. Learn more about how you can volunteer for the wisdom tooth extraction study.