Patients and parents will often ask us about wisdom teeth and what to do with them.
Third molars (also known as wisdom teeth) are highly variable, not only in their shape and size, but also their location within our mouths. Quite often, patients won’t actually realise they have wisdom teeth until an OPG X-Ray is taken and they can actually visualise it underneath the gums. The number of wisdom teeth is also highly variable. Some patients will have three instead of the usual four, and if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll be missing them all together.
Wisdom teeth are the most common missing teeth in our mouths and unfortunately, wisdom teeth are also the most commonly impacted teeth in our mouths. Historically, we used to think that wisdom teeth were solely responsible for causing crowding, especially of the lower teeth, and it made sense at the time that perhaps the force from the wisdom teeth were contributing to that overlap we saw at the front. But a number of research studies have demonstrated that it isn’t just the wisdom teeth’s affect that causes the crowding, in fact there’s more than one thing that contributes to the overall crowding of the teeth.
Long-term studies looked at different groups of people, some with impacted wisdom teeth, some with erupted wisdom teeth, some that had wisdom teeth extracted, and some that never had wisdom in the first place. They demonstrated that the crowding between all four groups was actually very similar, and in fact further research demonstrated that crowding is not caused by one factor alone, but a few different areas. Things like a mismatch between the tooth size and the jaw size, lack of wear between the teeth, even rotations of the lower jaw, and the soft tissue within our faces all contribute to crowding. So it’s a little bit unfair to blame it solely on the wisdom teeth.
Of course, wisdom teeth are known to cause other problems, they can be impacted or jammed, they can cause food traps and the gum around it can become inflamed or even infected, and the lack of cleansability around wisdom teeth can result in tooth decay. Wisdom teeth will not only damage themselves, but also neighbouring teeth.
So the bottom line is that wisdom teeth need to be thoroughly investigated and diagnosed. We work in concert with your general dentist and oral surgeon to ensure that wisdom teeth are monitored over time, and if necessary, removed.
If you would like more information about wisdom teeth, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.