Evolution isn’t always tidy and linear. For example, we have smaller jaws than our ancestors thousands of years ago, but most of our bodies haven’t adapted by generating fewer teeth. Two-thirds of us produce the same amount of teeth as early humans. These late-developing extra molars are called wisdom teeth and they pose unique oral issues.
When a wisdom tooth tries to come in but is impeded by the adjacent tooth, it becomes impacted and can result in:
- Tooth decay
It’s challenging to clean partially-erupted wisdom teeth. Since they have a high risk of decay, dentists pay special attention to them. They can also cause cavities in the neighboring molars.
If they are causing problems, your dentist will recommend they be removed. Your dentist may also recommend extraction to prevent future problems.
It is estimated that 85% of wisdom teeth need to be removed. Wisdom tooth extraction is a routine outpatient procedure. Most patients experience minimal pain and recover in a few days.
If your high-schooler still has their wisdom teeth and is going away to college this fall, we recommend an exam before they leave. You don’t want the teeth to start hurting them when they are away from their regular dentist or have them miss class to get them removed.