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Wisdom Teeth: Do You Really Need That Surgery?

Wisdom tooth surgery.

It’s become something of to a rite of passage for many of us, just like chickenpox or getting our first cavity. Wisdom tooth extraction is common, but is it as necessary as we’ve been led to believe?

Before we dive into that sticky subject, let’s review the basics about these curious and controversial teeth.

Wisdom Teeth Basics

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars in our mouths. These teeth usually show up later than the rest of our permanent teeth, usually in the later teen years. Ideally, these teeth develop correctly in our mouths and create no other issues.

However, wisdom teeth are notorious for developing misaligned—meaning they come through the gums at awkward horizontal angles. When this happens, the errant molars can put pressure on other teeth, damage nearby nerves, and generally disrupt the healthy functioning of the mouth. If this is the case, wisdom teeth will need to be removed through surgery.

Removal Surgery

Wisdom tooth removal is common and the removal surgery is relatively routine.

Oral surgeons use either local anesthetics or nitrous oxide to numb the surrounding tissue for the duration of the procedure before removing each tooth. Although the procedure is straightforward, there are several issues that can complicate the process:

Some practitioners recommend having wisdom teeth removed before the tooth breaks through the gum line to prevent possible complications as they develop. Although this solution can prevent problems caused by errant wisdom teeth, the practice of preventative wisdom tooth surgery is controversial.

Do I Need Them Removed?

So, is wisdom tooth removal a must-have operation?

The answer is no—if you’re one of the lucky ones whose wisdom teeth develop correctly. If wisdom teeth are aligned well in your mouth and you’re not experiencing any issues, you probably don’t need to go through the hassle of having them taken out.

If your wisdom teeth are developing abnormally (as defined by your dentist) then wisdom tooth extraction might be a good idea. Failing to get wisdom teeth removed, when needed, can expose you to some nasty problems that include possible infection and jaw surgery.

However, this still leaves the question of whether or not preventative wisdom tooth extraction is a good idea. If future problems can be avoided, is there a downside?

The downsides, of course, are the expenses and discomfort inherent in a procedure that might not be necessary. Other organs (like our appendices and tonsils) often get infected and require removal, but doctors aren’t rushing out to suggest that all patients have them removed as a preventative course of treatment.

At the end of the day, there’s no telling how wisdom teeth will develop until they arrive. Without a clinical reason for doing so, preventative extraction is not recommended. Speak with Dr. Hsu if you have concerns about your or your children’s wisdom teeth to get an expert opinion on whether removal is the right move.

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