Should Adults Have Their Wisdom Teeth Removed?


All dentists care about the health of their patients and each has their own way of doing things. One point of contention you’ll find among many dentists, however, is the question posed in the title. The briefest answer that can be given is: sometimes. A more elaborate answer is: sometimes, but it’s better to do it earlier than later if you’re going to do it. For an even more elaborate explanation, keep reading:


Wisdom teeth are vestigial teeth – they used to perform some important function, but they are now non-essential. They share the vestigial trait with other popular anatomical mainstays – the appendix (though its vestigial nature has been up for debate in recent years) and the tailbone, for example. All three share a common trait – they don’t do a lot of good, but they can cause a lot of problems. You can bruise your tailbone, you can get appendicitis, and you can get bad cavities in your wisdom teeth – not to mention problems resulting from impaction; impacted wisdom teeth don’t fully break through the gums.


Impacted teeth on their own don’t necessarily cause you health problems, just like appendixes don’t necessarily cause appendicitis. That said, wisdom teeth are particularly difficult to care for, and it’s quite typical to see patients end up with cavities. This is especially true for impacted teeth. Wisdom teeth are already at the back of your mouth as it is, and when they’ve hardly peeked out of your gums, they can be quite tough to brush properly.


So why not just yank them out? As an excellent quote in this New York Times article about the subject (which is very worth the read) attributed to Dr. Greg J. Huang says: “Everybody is at risk for appendicitis, but do you take out everyone’s appendix?” Surgery has risks, and when it comes to wisdom teeth, those risks grow as you get older.


Herein lies the great debate. There are some dentists who say you should extract wisdom teeth preventatively, because it’s not unlikely you’ll need them extracted anyway, and getting them extracted later in life is more dangerous. As you age, the roots of your wisdom teeth become more developed and fully entrenched in your mouth. What’s more, wound healing tends to become more difficult as we grow older. 


On the flip side, many patients don’t have their wisdom teeth extracted preventatively and go on to live completely normal, happy lives. These are the cases that make some practitioners draw the comparison to preventative appendectomies; just because wisdom teeth can cause problems doesn’t mean it’s worth risking surgery.


Now, if your wisdom teeth are actively bothering you or if they’re likely to need root canals because of cavities, you might want to get them removed anyway. In the end, the best way for a dentist to decide what route to take may be through a thorough conversation with their patients. Looking for a Winnipeg dentist who is committed to having that informative conversation with you? Give us a call.