Do Experts Say Not to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth
With ongoing medical research, it’s natural that the medical world seems to change its mind concerning advice on certain areas; advice for pregnant women and new mothers has changed considerably over the last hundred years, while advice regarding red wine, stomach ulcers and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also changes according to each new study and how it’s reported in the media.
But when it comes to your teeth, has there been any significant research leading to new advice from experts?
Some dentists seem to automatically recommend wisdom tooth extraction as soon as they see them coming through on an x-ray, but opinion is changing over whether they need to be taken out or not. When you pay for your healthcare, it’s normal to be sceptical over what’s necessary and what isn’t. So let’s explore whether experts say not to remove your wisdom teeth, so you know whether the procedure is necessary or not.
Why Might You Have Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Having wisdom teeth isn’t a good enough reason to have them removed. Generally, you’ll only need your wisdom teeth removed if:
- They’re impacted and causing pain
- They’re infected
- They’re causing your teeth to be cramped, leading to other negative effects such as substantial plaque build-up
Adults have 28 teeth, 32 including the 4 extra molars that grow at the back of your mouth in your late teens (wisdom teeth) – although not everyone will have them. Impacted wisdom teeth are caused by your wisdom teeth growing at an angle into the neighbouring teeth, or remaining stuck in the jaw, unable to ever penetrate from the gum. Sometimes impacted wisdom teeth can be very painful as they grow and push your teeth together, or grow into the nerves of the next-door molar, but they can also be painless.
Even if your wisdom teeth grow in the correct place and penetrate the gum, very few people have enough room in their mouths for wisdom teeth, since they have become largely unnecessary due to our change in diet over the past several million years. So to make room, wisdom teeth push your 28 other teeth away to make room. This can be painful as your teeth change position and can cause your teeth to be cramped as there’s not enough room for them to stand side by side.
When your teeth overlap tightly, it’s harder to brush away bacteria and food particles from the small gaps between your teeth which enable plaque to build up. Plaque sticks to your teeth causing tooth decay and cavities, and later causing infections and teeth to break.
Is it Ever Too Late to Remove Wisdom Teeth?
Most people’s wisdom teeth will start to grow in their late teens or early twenties, but it’s been known for people in their fifties and sixties to suddenly have wisdom teeth come through, so it’s never too late for wisdom teeth to grow. Since wisdom tooth extraction isn’t always necessary, it’s also never too late for wisdom teeth to be removed, unless you have an issue with them that you’re ignoring.
Having an impacted wisdom tooth that’s causing a huge amount of pain in your jaw and even ear, will not only affect your quality of life, but may also affect your health. If the wisdom tooth is painful because it’s infected, this infection can spread from your tooth into your gums and even your jaw. Plus, untreated infections can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease as your immune system is constantly trying to fight the infection, increasing pressure on your heart and blood vessels.
If your wisdom teeth are causing an issue, you should go to your dentist to have them removed. But it’s not always necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Do Experts Say Not to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?
Although in the past, surgeons may have also removed your appendix, foreskin or tonsils when performing other surgery as a precaution or to prevent complications later in life with seemingly useless and problematic body parts, the general health advice in modern medicine is to leave everything alone until it causes an issue. While the risk of complications following an appendectomy, circumcision, or tonsillectomy is very small, any procedure has some risks. So to reduce the chances of complications even further, unless there is a health issue, doctors won’t generally remove anything preventatively.
In the same way, wisdom teeth removal is unlikely to cause any complications if you follow the aftercare advice given to you by your dentist, however, there are still risks. So if your wisdom teeth are growing well and not causing you any health issues, experts say not to remove them.
Even if your wisdom teeth are impacted, it doesn’t mean you will be in pain or need a wisdom tooth extraction. However, teeth do continue to move and your wisdom teeth will continue to grow until they have erupted from your gum, so if they are impacted, they may cause you pain or problems later in life and need to be extracted eventually.
How Many Wisdom Teeth Should Be Extracted at Once?
Tooth extraction, while not painful, isn’t a pleasant procedure. So the idea of having more than one taken out at once can be very unappealing. However, in some instances, having 2, or even 4 taken out at once may be beneficial.
For most tooth extractions you’ll only have a local anaesthetic, so for your comfort and the best results from your recovery, you may want to only have a maximum of two wisdom teeth removed at once. That way, you can eat on the other side of your mouth while the swelling goes down from the removal of the top and bottom teeth on one side.
However, if you’re having a sedation, it can be better to remove all four wisdom teeth at once (provided all four need removal) to prevent the need for more than one procedure and reduce the chances of further complications.
Potential Risks of Tooth Extractions
The main risks following a tooth extraction are:
- A dry socket
- An infection
Both of these issues can be prevented by the growth and maintenance of a blood clot following your tooth extraction; a blood clot forms over the empty socket, helping nerves to regrow and preventing bacteria and foot from entering the open wound.
If a blood clot doesn’t form or is removed, this is a dry socket, which can be very painful as the nerves are unprotected and the jaw is exposed. If the socket becomes infected, the infection can spread to the gum, other teeth and even the jaw, which can lead to very serious problems necessitating major surgery if left untreated.
What to Do for a Dental Emergency
If you have a tooth infection following a tooth extraction, you should treat this as an emergency and get an emergency dental appointment as soon as possible. Out-of-hours dentists also have availability overnight so you don’t need to wait until your normal dentist opens if your infection develops over the evening or night. The dentist will examine your teeth and decide which course of action to take: draining the infection (root canal), prescribing antibiotics or removing teeth.
Your GP cannot help you and you shouldn’t go to hospital or A&E either unless you are also bleeding heavily or have severe swelling around your eye, mouth or neck that’s preventing you from breathing, speaking, swallowing or seeing.
Preventing Problems Following a Tooth Extraction
You should follow your dentist’s advice following a tooth extraction to prevent any complications.
Your dentist will advise you NOT to:
- Drink alcohol, fizzy drinks, fresh milk, very hot or very cold drinks
- Drink through a straw
- Eat crunchy, crumbly, spicy or very sugary foods
Make sure you clean your mouth well according to your dentist’s advice, check for your blood clot following the extraction, take painkillers and only eat soft, warm foods following the extraction. You can normally return to eating and drinking as normal after 5 to 7 days, once your gum has healed.