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Do I Need to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

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Your dentist says you need to have your wisdom teeth taken out. But they don’t hurt, you say, so why remove them?

These days, oral surgery to remove wisdom teeth is a standard practice -- almost a rite of passage for young adults. It might not always be necessary, though.

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According to one study, 10 million wisdom teeth are removed each year from 5 million people. More than 60% of these removals aren’t needed.

Preventive Efforts

Still, just because your wisdom teeth aren’t a source of pain doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong. The teeth could be stuck, or impacted. That means they can’t break through your jaw and into your mouth. Maybe your mouth is too small to make room for them, or the teeth could be growing at an angle to other teeth. They can damage the tooth next door if they push up against it.

Some dentists take out healthy molars to prevent problems later on. As you age, the bones in your mouth get harder. That makes your teeth tougher to remove. 

If you wait, you could have problems after surgery that range from heavy bleeding and fractured teeth to severe numbness and minor loss of movement in your jaw. These troubles could last a few days or a lifetime.

When Is Removal Needed?

When wisdom teeth cause problems, or X-rays show they might down the line, they need to come out. Other good reasons to take them out include:

  • Damage to other teeth: That extra set of molars can push your other teeth around, causing mouth pain and bite problems.
  • Jaw damage: Cysts can form around the new teeth. If they aren’t treated, they can hollow out your jaw and damage nerves.  
  • Sinus Issues: Problems with wisdom teeth can lead to sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.
  • Inflamed Gums: Tissue around the area can swell and may be hard to clean.
  • Cavities: Swollen gums can create pockets between teeth that help bacteria grow and cavities form.
  • Alignment: Impacted wisdom teeth can undo the effects of braces, bridges, crowns, partial dentures, or any type of dental work.

Your dentist will look at the shape of your mouth and the position of your teeth to make a decision. Your age plays a role, too.

Still not ready to part with your molars? You can ask your dentist to explain what he sees with your teeth. In many cases, you can wait several months to see if things change before making your decision. But if you have pain or notice swelling or a bad odor near your back teeth, it may be time for a second look.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on September 19, 2014

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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