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3150 North Elm Street, Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408

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May 13, 2019

With Age Comes Wisdom….The Truth about Wisdom Teeth

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Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that develop. These third molars are supposed to erupt “at the age of wisdom” which can vary from late teens to mid-twenties. Some people don’t experience any problems and can appreciate the added benefit of grinding food with their wisdom teeth. But in others, wisdom teeth can cause pain, infection due to inadequate room for eruption.

Anthropologists believe wisdom teeth helped our human ancestors eat their early diet of coarse, rough food such as plants, leaves, roots, nuts, and meats - all requiring more chewing power. New technology such as silverware and a modern diet of softer foods have allowed the wisdom teeth’s original function to become obsolete.

Wisdom teeth often need to be removed because of inadequate room for eruption, cavities, cysts around them, or damage or bone loss affecting adjacent teeth. However, not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. In older patients, if wisdom teeth are firmly encased in bone and unlikely to erupt, the risks of removing them is greater than the risks of leaving them alone.

There is a myth that implies third molars cause crowding of other teeth if not removed. However, studies have been conducted on subjects who had their wisdom teeth extracted prior to removal of their braces and those who had them extracted after orthodontics was completed. It was shown that crowding still developed in those who had their third molars removed prior to completion of their braces. The reality is that the crowding of the lower front teeth is due to the late growth of the lower jaw in the mid to late twenties. In these cases, the wisdom teeth did not push the lower teeth together, but the teeth do not move relative to this jaw growth and the teeth misalign.

Dr. Margaret Szott advises believes that if the wisdom teeth are fully erupted and can be kept clean by the patient, there is no need to have them removed. The same is true for older adults who have fully impacted wisdom teeth that are not causing problems.

If your wisdom teeth give you pain or discomfort, see your dentist. Since every mouth is unique, your dentist will examine complete a full exam and take x-rays before making any decisions regarding removal. Together, you can discuss the best course of treatment for your teeth and reduce the risk of bigger problems later.

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3150 North Elm Street
Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408
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