Most humans develop 32 permanent teeth. There are occasions in which permanent teeth do not develop, usually due to heredity factors. Some people don't develop any wisdom teeth while most have anywhere from one to four. There are other instances, in fact, when tooth buds don't appear to replace the primary teeth. In which case, primary teeth remain for a longer period of time. On the other hand, I have known some people who have developed more than four wisdom teeth! So why do dentist recommend they be removed? After all, God placed them there. There are some ethic groups whose jaw line is large enough to withstand that extra row of teeth, but not necessarily keep them clean enough to be disease free. Those of us who have a European background don't have jaw lines that provide that extra room for our wisdom teeth. As a result, they become impacted or partially erupted. In which case, they can become painful. Dental professionals have the unique opportunity to see outcomes of poor decisions over a life span. Looking into the mouth of a young adult, the dental professional can in vision, in some ways, the future outcomes of the teeth. On the other hand, looking into the mouth of the older adult gives much information.
"They aren't bothering me" is the usual response from a patient as to why the wisdom teeth are still present. The fact is they don't hurt YET! The photo on the left is a radiograph of an impacted wisdom tooth that has "grown" into the second molar. Because of the inability to clean around it well, bacteria has invaded the second molar. As a result, the second molar may be lost in a lifetime due to extensive decay caused by the wisdom tooth. Please note that the wisdom tooth still needs to be extracted PLUS a root canal, post, and crown will likely be placed on the second molar in an effort to save the tooth. "An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure" certainly applies to this case.
Other things to consider as the dental patient ages, medications need to be evaluated if an extraction is necessary as well as an expected longer healing time. Dental professionals give recommendations based on overall oral health. Are you seriously going to floss those wisdom teeth? It's difficult to have flossing compliance for the teeth the patient can reach. That's why wisdom teeth are often a reservoir of bacteria that infect the rest of the mouth. Removing the wisdom teeth is beneficial in helping to prevent decay and periodontal disease. If you have any questions regarding your overall dental health, contact your dentist.
Health-bite: Removal of wisdom teeth can prevent future oral disease.