Wisdom teeth: Not as helpful as they sound Wisdom teeth: Not as helpful as they sound

Given their location and because they are the last to erupt, there is often not enough space in the mouth for wisdom teeth, which is why extraction is often the first treatment option.

Medical Advisor: Clara Isabel Borrero Gutiérrez, dentist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

Also known as “third molars,” wisdom teeth are often a point of concern for many patients when it comes time to consider extracting them. Despite this being a common practice, currently, some researchers and clinics agree that wisdom teeth are becoming less common among younger generations.

According to Dr. Clara Isabel Borrero Gutiérrez, wisdom teeth generally appear between ages 18 and 25. Perhaps this is why they are known as “wisdom teeth,” as this is also a period of entering into adulthood.

While their function is to chew and grind food, with the changes of a modern diet, their role is modifying. As Dr. Borrero states, previously, humans used to eat foods that were harder, dryer and contained more fiber. Nowadays, however, foods that are soft in texture that do not require much chewing are predominating our diets. Other studies have shown that while they may not have disappeared, they are reducing in size as they are no longer as important for chewing. Extracting them is the most efficient way to prevent other teeth from being affected by the consequences of a crowded dental arch.

As Dr. Borrero explains, by taking a panoramic x-ray early on, you can detect whether wisdom teeth will cause damage or not. “They tend to come in at an angle, which is why they cause discomfort when they erupt, as they do not have a place to come out of, causing pressure and pain in the region around the last molar. In some situations, as they erupt, this can increase the risk of infection related to poor oral hygiene.”


Why do they hurt so much?

They do not always hurt, but this is the idea that most patients have. Sometimes, wisdom teeth erupt and remain without causing symptoms throughout a person’s entire life. In other cases, however, they can become impacted in the bone and, if they are not removed, they can cause a reaction in the foreign body. In such cases, this can cause certain complications that must be treated by a specialist.

X-rays are key to deciding what treatment should be used and how complex the extraction will be, as they help determine the characteristics, size, position and development of wisdom teeth, as well as their proximity to anatomical structures. Once this is clarified, the surgeon can identify how complex the procedure is and can recommend whether it is viable to perform a dental extraction on all four wisdom teeth in one appointment, or if two or more appointments are needed. Ideally, this process can be done with one surgery to facilitate an easier recovery for the patient.


Are there complications?

Sometimes. They can include: fractures in the root of the molar (which can be caused by instruments), lacerations to the soft tissues caused by the drill, accidental cuts, reactions to anesthesia such as low blood pressure or feeling faint, and hemorrhaging. It is therefore important that this procedure be performed by a professional that is qualified and experienced in performing and managing these cases; this lowers the risk of complications, and negative or undesired side effects •

After getting your wisdom teeth removed,

patients should keep the operated area clean as well as continue with their oral hygiene routine. If food residue is not removed, a secondary infection may occur.

They can stay too

Wisdom teeth do not always cause damage. Some patients have enough space in their jawbone, allowing them to erupt properly and remain without functional, chewing or hygiene problems. When people are able to keep their teeth, their upper wisdom teeth are in adequate contact with the teeth that are both adjacent and in the opposing jawbone, allowing them to be functional, stable and able to fit well with the oral and stomatognathic system.