Why Are Wisdom Teeth Typically Removed?

While some people are lucky enough to get to keep them, a lot of people need to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point during their lives. If you haven't had yours removed yet and don't know why you might need to, here are a couple of reasons.

Not Enough Space

The most common reason for removing wisdom teeth is a simple one: there's simply not enough space available for those four teeth to move in.

Over the centuries, the shape of the faces of people has gradually changed. Shorter jaws are more common than they used to be, and while this isn't a problem for most things, it can lead to there not being enough space for wisdom teeth to move in. However, this doesn't mean that the teeth are going to just stay under the surface. Your body's instincts will still kick in and try to move those wisdom teeth up and out of the gums, just like any other set of teeth.

Unfortunately, this can cause significant problems for your gums and mouth. If you don't have enough space, those teeth are likely to push their neighbors out of alignment, which can start a cascade of teeth becoming crooked, like a bunch of dominoes falling over very slowly.

Overcrowding is one potential issue, but if you don't have enough space for those teeth, it may not be as simple an issue as overcrowding. Instead, the wisdom teeth may directly impact their neighboring molars. In other words, the wisdom teeth may start pushing into the neighboring molars under the surface of the gums, where they lack protective enamel. This can rapidly damage the tooth and lead to pain, infection, and possibly the need to remove not only the wisdom teeth but also the damaged molars, as well.

Growing the Wrong Way

The vast majority of baby and adult teeth will grow in the way that they should, but wisdom teeth are a bit of an outlier. Wisdom teeth are more likely to grow and develop pointing in the wrong direction. Believe it or not, wisdom teeth can be turned upside down or may even point to one side or the other instead of growing up towards the surface of the gums.

When this happens, it can cause lots of problems. To start, it can cause the molar impaction mentioned before. However, it can also cause those wisdom teeth to actually grow into surrounding tissues, like the roof of the mouth. This can lead to severe infections, and if left untreated, it can cause permanent damage. 

Thankfully, dental x-rays can easily spot wisdom teeth that are growing in the wrong direction or that don't have enough space to move in. If your dentist believes you need your wisdom teeth taken out, you can trust them on it.

If you suspect you need wisdom teeth removal, contact a dentist in your area for an evaluation.