Wisdom teeth, so called because they appear when you’re older and hopefully a little wiser; but for many they’re surplus to requirements, and when they finally do show up to the party there’s not always enough room (awkward).
But Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
According to anthropologists wisdom teeth would have been useful back in the day, replacing teeth that may have been lost through trauma or decay, or worn down by a diet of coarse, rough food. Unfortunately they’re not quite so welcome in this day and age, and thanks to softer diets, improved dental care and shrinking jaws, the outlook for squeezing in extra teeth is bleak.
So when your wisdom teeth do eventually try to break free they can sometimes get stuck. When this happens we say the tooth is impacted. A fully impacted wisdom tooth will be completely hidden underneath the gum. A partially impacted wisdom tooth will peek through the gum – so if you open wide you should be able to glimpse it at the back of your mouth.
Do Impacted Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?
Impacted wisdom teeth don’t necessarily need to be removed, and some will sit there quite happily, causing no problems whatsoever. But in some cases bacteria can build up around impacted teeth, leading to decay, gum disease and in some cases infections and abscesses. Ultimately discomfort and unwelcome trips to the dentist for you.
If you are unlucky enough to experience the above, your dentist might recommend a course of treatment and more enthusiastic oral hygiene before they consider removing your wisdom teeth. But if push does come to pull, rest assured that removing wisdom teeth is an extremely common procedure and in most cases very straight forward.
Are My Wisdom Teeth Making My Other Teeth Crooked?
No. There’s a common misconception that wisdom teeth push other teeth out of their way as they erupt, causing them to move and overlap. However, this is not the case, and research by Dr Tom Southard at the University of Iowa has shown that wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure on other teeth to create dental crowding. As part of this study sensors were used to measure the pressures on teeth, with and without wisdom teeth present, ultimately showing that there was no difference between the two.
So if you’re experiencing dental crowding your wisdom teeth are most likely not to blame, and other factors – such as not wearing your retainer – could be responsible. If you’re concerned about crooked teeth, the best thing to do is seek advice from a specialist orthodontist – like us.
If it’s your wisdom teeth that are causing you trouble, your first port of call should be your general dentist. You’ll also find lots of useful advice on the Dental Health Foundation website.