…LMHD can guide you through the whole process

Over the course of a lifetime your mouth goes through many changes. One important change that happens to everyone is the appearance of your third molars, also known as your wisdom teeth. This major dental milestone usually takes place when you are between the ages of 17 and 21 years. Historically, these teeth were called “wisdom teeth” because they come through at a more mature age than the other teeth in your mouth. What are wisdom teeth, why do we have them, and why do most of us have them removed? Read on for some “wisdom” about wisdom teeth!

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third molars, the last (posterior) teeth that occur in the human mouth. 

Why do we have them?

Wisdom teeth are the vestigial third molars that helped our human ancestors to grind plant tissue. It is thought that our human ancestors had skulls with larger jaws and more teeth, which possibly helped them to chew foliage. After the advent of agriculture over 10,000 years ago, soft human diets became the norm, resulting in jaws that grew with less forward growth than our paleolithic ancestors and not enough room for the wisdom teeth.

Why do most people have their wisdom teeth removed? 

Wisdom teeth can lead to problems if there isn’t enough space for them to surface or if they come through in the wrong position. For many people, their wisdom teeth are impacted, meaning they are trapped in your jaw or under your gums. In order to minimize the discomfort or pain that accompanies impacted wisdom teeth, it is important to maintain regular visits with your dentist as your wisdom teeth make their way through your gums so that he/she may monitor your mouth for signs of the following:

  • Are the wisdom teeth crowding other teeth? Wisdom teeth that don’t have room to come through may crowd or damage neighboring teeth.
  • Are the wisdom teeth impacted? A wisdom tooth that is impacted can form a cyst on or near the impacted tooth. This may damage the roots of nearby teeth or destroy the bone that supports the teeth.
  • Are partially grown-in wisdom teeth creating unhealthy conditions in your mouth? Wisdom teeth that have partially come through can give bacteria a place to enter the gums and create a place for infection to occur. This may lead to pain, swelling and stiffness in your jaw.
  • If the wisdom teeth have come through, are there spaces food will get trapped? Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the right position can allow food to become trapped, giving cavity-causing bacteria a place to grow.
  • And is there room to properly floss? Wisdom teeth that don’t come in properly can make it difficult to floss between the wisdom teeth and the molars next to them, creating the conditions for cavities.

At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, we work closely with our patients to identify their needs and monitor the progression of their wisdom teeth. Before you make any decisions, we will discuss with you the best course of treatment. Some reasons people have their wisdom teeth removed include pain, infection, and damage to neighboring teeth. Other less common reasons include cysts, tumors, gum disease and tooth decay. Sometimes people have wisdom teeth removed as part of their treatment for braces or other dental care. Each individual is different, and your dental care team at LMHD will work closely together with you to identify your unique course of treatment. 

Can I keep my wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth that are not removed should be continually monitored because of the potential for developing problems later down the road. As people age, there is a greater risk for health problems, including potential problems with the wisdom teeth. If you allow your wisdom teeth to come through, be sure to floss well around them and visit the dentist regularly so that he/she can continually evaluate your wisdom teeth and your overall dental health. If they come through correctly, healthy wisdom teeth may only cause a little discomfort when they appear. But if you have pain, it is critical to see your dentist immediately.

At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, we are here to be your partner in health. We treat our patients with dignity, kindness, and respect, and we understand that every patient has unique individual needs. We will work closely with you to identify your particular needs as your wisdom teeth grow in. Call us at 619-469-2902 to make an appointment at LMHD, or click here to book an appointment today!