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Your Wisdom Teeth: Are They Keepers?

March 18, 2011 | Posted in Education | Be the first one to comment

As anyone who visits their dentist on a regular basis is likely aware, one of the number one goals we have is to ensure you keep your natural teeth for as long as possible…all of them! There can be one exception. Wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of molars that will develop for most of us. They usually come in during the teenage years. However, it is quite common for them to first erupt in people as late as the mid-twenties.

When wisdom teeth erupt fully and are properly aligned, there is no reason to remove them. Unfortunately, many people find their wisdom teeth are not so well aligned or that they fail to fully erupt from the gum line.

Poorly aligned wisdom teeth can cause many problems. First and foremost, they can result in crowding. This can affect the bite and may result in uneven wear and tear on teeth throughout the mouth. Some people will experience strain in the muscles around the mouth which, in turn, may result in frequent headaches or general pain in the jaw joint.

Even chewing with misaligned teeth can prove difficult, sometimes painful, and this can have an impact on nutrition. Nutritious foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, that are hard to chew may be passed over for less healthy, but easier to chew, alternatives.

Crowding also makes all teeth harder to clean. It makes it more difficult to get at trapped food particles with conventional brushing and flossing. Consequently, plaque may accumulate on both the wisdom teeth and the adjacent teeth that are affected by the crowding. With increased plaque build-up, the risk of decay is increased.

Crowding may still be a problem even if your wisdom teeth have not erupted. They may be under the surface of the gum line, still putting pressure on the adjacent teeth.

Moreover, partially erupted wisdom teeth provide an opening that makes it easier for bacteria to make its way to the bloodstream. This can lead to serious health complications, including infections or even heart disease.

Your best bet is to have your dentist monitor the development of your wisdom teeth. By using x-rays, your dentist can usually determine if your wisdom teeth are likely to make a proper and beneficial appearance or if problems are likely to be just around the corner.

If you are the parent of a university student who will soon be returning home after another school year, now may be the perfect time to schedule an appointment to check out how those wisdom teeth are doing.

Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about your wisdom teeth. S/he will recommend keeping them if it is possible. However, if keeping them is not in the best interests of your oral health, it is usually easier to remove them sooner than later…because ensuring the proper development of ALL of your teeth is a healthy habit…and healthy habits lead to healthy lives.

Dr. David Lui

Dental Surgeon

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