Wisdom teeth extraction is a rite of passage for many U.S. teenagers and young adults. With the eruption of third molars around the average ages of 17-25, as many as 85% of the population undergoes wisdom teeth extraction at some point in their lives. But is it really necessary? The answer is complicated, and in most developed countries around the world, dental professionals subscribe to two very different schools of thought.

1.      Wisdom teeth should remain in place

The question of whether wisdom teeth should be removed has become controversial in recent years. Some dentists say more prudence should be exercised in wisdom teeth removal. Whereas only a couple of decades ago the eruption of third molars prompted almost immediate removal, today’s dentists increasingly subscribe to a wait-and-see approach and advocate allowing nature to take its course – with some important caveats:

  • Wisdom teeth that grow in crookedly should be extracted
  • Those that cause pain should be removed
  • Decayed wisdom teeth must be pulled

One point most all dental professionals can agree on is that while wisdom teeth may have played an important role in the chewing (and therefore digestion) of rough plant materials millennia ago, they don’t serve any discernible function in modern humans. That is, people simply don’t need wisdom teeth for the purpose of chewing food – our second molars do a fine job of that all on their own. That said, some argue that wisdom teeth do still serve a purpose in maintaining a healthy jaw and bite alignment.

2.      Wisdom teeth should be extracted

The majority of today’s dentists maintains that wisdom teeth almost always do more harm than good. This viewpoint is primarily based on the fact that third molars:

  • Are difficult to clean and therefore develop (and subsequently spread!) tooth decay
  • More often than not erupt in a crooked fashion and can push adjacent teeth out of alignment
  • Are therefore oftentimes associated with pain to the patient

It certainly makes sense that proper caring for wisdom teeth can cause problems – after all, they’re very difficult to reach with a toothbrush and floss. As a result, the owners of wisdom teeth often present at the dentist’s office with cavities in the far recesses of their mouths. What’s even more problematic, however, is the fact that decaying wisdom teeth can quickly spread tooth decay to second molars. Considering we only have a single set of those to last us throughout adulthood, it seems smart to prevent them from harm.

In addition, many dentists argue that wisdom teeth all too often grow in at an angle – which not only means potentially severe pain for the patient as the wisdom tooth (or teeth) fights for space with adjacent teeth, but also the associated risk that the wisdom tooth (or teeth) may win the face-off and push neighboring teeth into a motley array of misalignment.

3.      So what’s the best choice when it comes to wisdom teeth extraction?

Clearly, every teen and his or her parents must make an informed decision – one that is right for them on a case-by-case basis. It is important to consider, though, that wisdom teeth that may initially seem to grow in straight and proper can still cause issues later in life (thanks to the aforementioned challenges in proper hygiene).

A trusted dentist experienced in wisdom teeth removal is a great ally in making the right choice. Talk to your dentist when wisdom teeth erupt so your dental health care provider can keep a close eye on the situation.

Author's Bio: 

Mudassar Hassan brings 6 years of experience in helping grass roots, mid-sized organizations and large institutions strengthen their management and resource generating capacities and effectively plan for the future. He is also a mentor and professional advisor to artists working in all disciplines. He is also the gold medalist from Abbottabad University of Science and Technology in the Bachelors of Sciences of Computer Science