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Most of the time dentists want patients to keep their teeth in place.
There is one big exception to this guideline, however. More often than not, it’s a good idea to have your wisdom teeth removed .
Most people don’t have large enough jaws to allow their wisdom teeth to erupt correctly. That won’t stop those teeth from trying to push their way into position, and that can lead to serious problems.
Today, we will explain a little about why we have wisdom teeth, what problems they can cause, and what we do at Sunrise Dental to remove them comfortably.
If you would like to learn more, visit any of our dentist offices, which are located in Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, and Durham.
Why We Have Wisdom Teeth
Around the age of 6 or 7, most children will start losing their primary teeth. This makes room for our permanent teeth to erupt. By 12 or 13 years old, most of our adult teeth are in place.
Our third set of molars generally emerges in our late teens or early 20s. Since we are a little older and presumably wiser, the last teeth that erupt in the back of our mouths have been nicknamed wisdom teeth.
Today, wisdom teeth are considered a vestigial part. Much like our appendix or tonsils, wisdom teeth don’t seem to have any practical function in our bodies.
That may not have been in the case in human history, however.
Anthropologists have compared skulls of our ancient ancestors with the skulls of modern humans. They know that, on average, our ancestors had larger jaws than modern people.
This meant our ancestors may have had room to allow their third molars to come in easier.
Scientists have come up with a few hypotheses about why wisdom teeth may have been helpful to our predecessors.
One hypothesis is that our ancestors lost teeth, too. By having another set of teeth erupt later, they had a way of replacing teeth that had fallen out or been knocked loose.
Another hypothesis is based on their diet. Today, we eat a lot of processed foods. Our ancestors ate a rougher diet and therefore needed to do more work to grind their food so they could swallow it. The third set of molars gave them a larger surface area to do that grinding.
Regardless of what wisdom teeth once did for our ancestors, they are usually a problem for us.
How Wisdom Teeth Cause Problems
Most of our jaws are too small to allow our wisdom teeth to erupt correctly.
As a result, our wisdom teeth can become impacted. Partially impacted teeth break the surface of the gums but don’t emerge completely. Completely impacted teeth develop but remain below the gumline.
Both kinds of impacted teeth can cause oral health and alignment problems.
If left in place, impacted teeth can lead to pain, swelling, and infections. Partially impacted teeth can create openings for bacteria to cause gum disease or tooth decay.
Impacted teeth also may push into your existing teeth. This can move them out of alignment, which can affect your smile and make them more difficult to brush and floss.
How We Remove Wisdom Teeth
Before removing wisdom teeth, we scan your mouth with our cone beam CT scanner. This machine captures hundreds of images that are combined to create a digital three-dimensional model of your teeth and jaw.
This gives us a much better understand of where your wisdom teeth are, what direction they are growing, and what kinds of problems they may be causing or may cause if they are allowed to remain in place.
If we determine that extracting your wisdom teeth is a good idea, we can make an appointment for their removal. Before the procedure, we will apply a local anesthetic. We can give you dental sedation as well to make sure you don’t feel a thing and that you stay relaxed throughout the procedure.
We will explain how to care for your mouth as your gums heal. You will want to avoid things like smoking and drinking from a straw during this time. We will also explain how to relieve any discomfort you may experience as you heal.
We always want to do what will provide the greatest long-term benefits for our patients’ oral health. More often than not, removing your wisdom teeth is one of those things.
If you live in or near the Research Triangle, you can make an appointment at any Sunrise Dental office so we can determine if your wisdom teeth are ready to be removed.
Use our online form or call any location to make your appointment.