Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars which typically erupt around the end of skeletal growth, this is usually between the ages of 16 to 18. They may not exist in a complete set of 4, and in some scenarios the entire set of wisdom teeth is missing all together. In many ways they are effectively pointless in terms of function. It has been theorised that our ancestors had larger and stronger jaws which required these additional molars to consume foods which were much harder to chew. However, our current diets are not as harder to chew so we no longer require the wisdom as much as they have been needed previously.
Most of the time it’s advised to simply remove the wisdom teeth if they become problematic however, in some scenarios, it’s possible to use wisdom teeth for tooth replacement, such as in the case of a bad second molar. If a bad second molar is extracted, the wisdom tooth can be orthodontically moved into its position.
Another way to utilise wisdom teeth for tooth replacement is using the auto-transplantation process. This involves a wisdom tooth being surgically transported into the spot where the tooth is missing, and if done correctly then the tooth should continue to develop normally. This procedure is best done when a wisdom tooth is young and not fully developed. At this point the root apex should still be open and there is still some growth potential remaining. It is possible that the wisdom tooth may require reshaping for it to fit in line with the remaining teeth. The survival rate of wisdom teeth used in this procedure is questionable, but it is worth discussing this with your dentist.
Another potential use for wisdom teeth is when a lot of your teeth have been lost. If you are having dentures made, having a wisdom tooth can improve the retention and support of dentures.
Issues with wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth have the potential to cause several issues. One of these issues is that these teeth can cause damage on second molars if the wisdom teeth erupt at a flat angle and subsequently push onto the second molars. Another significant issue that can be caused by wisdom teeth, and a very common reason for wisdom tooth removal, is a fundamental lack of sufficient space in the mouth. This can cause the wisdom teeth themselves to only partially erupt, and therefore, only part of the tooth protrudes out of the gum. This issue can cause a deep pocket to form between the tooth and gum, acting as an access point for bacteria to potentially enter and lead to infection. The potential infections from this issue can be severe and cause significant discomfort, inflammation of the face, infection, and potential fever. Consequently, in many cases the wisdom teeth may have to be removed as a preventative measure to avoid future issues.
If you are experiencing problems with your wisdom teeth, a member of our team would be happy to talk with you. Why not check out our patient reviews for reassurance on how we care for our patients.