The Wisdom of Preventative Removal

Hangovers are not the only thing that becomes harder to recover from with age; healing, in general, begins to take longer as we get older, and the risk of infection increases. This is why many dentists recommend having your wisdom teeth removed as a teenager or young adult. Science has proven that healing time is much faster, and the risk of complications and infections are lower when treating possible complications earlier in development.

Most people have room in their jaws for 28 teeth, comfortably. However, adults average 32 permanent teeth, creating a crowded and sometimes painful mouth as the third molars, or “wisdom teeth” begin to emerge. This typically occurs in the middle of the teenage years up to the early twenties. During this time, the root structure of the tooth is still developing, making it ideal for removal. As the jawbone becomes denser and the roots mature and grow, it becomes much harder to extract them.

When the state of affairs in the mouth are so crowded that the wisdom teeth cannot erupt from the gums at all, they are referred to as impacted. Sometimes they partially erupt but still are unable to participate in the chewing process and impossible to clean. When this happens, it is called partial bony impaction. In complete bony impaction, there is no space at all for the tooth to come through the gums and it becomes embedded in the jawbone.

In the past several years, celebrities have even taken to social media to post pictures and updates during their wisdom teeth removal visits. Nina Dobrev, from television series The Vampire Diaries, posted how she was “nervous….but pleasantly loopy” on the day of her extraction. Paris Hilton posted a picture of herself with a big fluffy pink blanket in her dentist’s chair on the day of her procedure. Justin Bieber even shared a video with his fans after receiving the anesthesia for his procedure where he is heard saying, “I’m going uuuuuunnderrr” with a loopy, relaxed smile.

Without realizing it, these and other celebrities are helping to bring awareness to something that could save someone more pain and a longer recovery in the future. Dr. Kevin Pollock, DDS MS, started the Rockwall Oral and Facial Surgery practice in 2001 says,

“It is so important to be proactive in the care of your mouth. Especially, in regards to wisdom teeth. Patients that get them removed young, shortly after they have emerged, have such an easier surgery and recovery times are much shorter and less painful. The roots of the teeth are less developed, and so they are easier to remove, resulting in less pain for the patient. Older patients are usually brought in by infection or swelling and should have had them removed years ago. It takes them longer to recover, and they do experience more pain and a more complicated procedure. Bringing your teenager to at least have them evaluated could save them so much pain down the road.”

Of course, a crowded mouth is not always the reason for removal. In fact, gum infections are the leading cause of removal. These infections are usually caused by crowding, though. The tissue around the wisdom tooth, too crowded to erupt, becomes inflamed, infected and very painful. Cysts can also form in the in the jawbone due to impacted teeth. These are problematic because they can negatively affect the surrounding teeth and jaw.

In all health initiatives, prevention is the most important thing stressed to adults, teenagers, and children. There is good reason for this as scientific research has continued to show. It’s easier to see something coming than try to chase it down after it has passed.