Wisdom Teeth and Orthodontics

One question that I’m frequently asked is, “When should I have my wisdom teeth removed?” There is no easy answer to that question. Traditionally, patients who currently have or had braces in the past automatically had their wisdom teeth removed by an oral surgeon to prevent them from causing misalignment once the braces came off.

These days, it’s not strictly necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed, just because you’ve had braces. In fact, both orthodontics associations and oral surgery associations have agreed that wisdom teeth should not be removed solely for the purpose of preventing movement of other teeth. Research has shown that when wisdom teeth come in, or erupt, the pressure is not usually strong enough to cause a misalignment in other teeth. So, more and more of us orthodontists are choosing to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to wisdom teeth extractions.

However, there can be complications. Your wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars to come in. While these additional teeth were quite useful for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, in modern times, they aren’t necessary. In fact, they can cause more harm than good for many people whose jaws are too small to provide the space to accommodate them, requiring surgical removal. For others, the wisdom teeth never break through the gum at all or fail to erupt fully and over time can cause pain and infection, also requiring surgical removal.

You might be surprised to discover that you may not even have wisdom teeth at all! An estimated 35% to 50% of people never develop wisdom teeth at all. If you happen to be part of the population that does get wisdom teeth, your team of dental care providers may watch and monitor the forming and movement of those third molars for a couple of years to decide if removal is needed. Wisdom teeth extractions are usually performed by an oral surgeon in their office while under some form of sedation. Every once in a while, wisdom teeth that have already broken through the gum but are causing problems can be extracted just as simply as pulling any other tooth – no surgery required.

Of course, I’m always happy to answer any questions that you might have about how your wisdom teeth may impact your orthodontic treatment and long term smile. We can discuss your concerns and potential options to ensure your smile stays beautiful.