What to Know About Teenagers and Wisdom Teeth

Your teenager has come a long way since birth — both physically and emotionally. Their mouth has undergone visible changes too, which may include the appearance of wisdom teeth.

Third molars, or wisdom teeth, grow in at the rear of the mouth behind the permanent molars. But unlike the rest of the teeth present inside the jawbone just before or at birth, wisdom teeth do not form until around the age of 7.

Many parents opt to remove their teenager’s wisdom teeth as soon as they appear in a dental x-ray. Others put off wisdom teeth removal for several reasons. Not sure what is right for your child? Read on to find out more about teenagers and wisdom teeth.

When Wisdom Teeth Surge Upward

Wisdom teeth themselves are often not a problem if there’s ample room for them to take their place in the jaw next to the rest of the molars.

Wisdom teeth are an evolutionary throwback to when we were large-jawed prehistoric humans with abrasive diets. Experts believe the modern humans don’t require extra molars for eating, and modern dentistry lessens the chances you’ll lose molars early in life and need those third pairs as a back-up.

However, wisdom teeth can create problems depending on where and how they surge upward and join the other teeth. Our relatively smaller jawbones often lack sufficient room for more teeth. Insufficient room for erupting, or growing, wisdom teeth can produce several negative results:

  • Difficulty cleaning: New wisdom teeth are forced to enter at an angle different from the rest of the teeth, which makes it harder to clean adjacent molars. Molars collect food quickly, and you need to be able to reach them to brush and floss properly.
  • Damage to adjacent teeth: Poorly positioned teeth cause neighboring teeth to develop cavities, gum disease or gum recession.
  • Pain: Pressure on teeth, bones, and soft tissue causes jaw and tooth pain, stiffness in the jaw, facial swelling, and headaches.
  • Crooked teeth: Adjacent teeth are shoved out of the way and become crowded or crooked, which can affect the alignment of your bite.

Due to these factors, many parents take their teens to the dentist for wisdom teeth removal. But should your dentist remove those wisdom teeth or not?

When to Remove Wisdom Teeth

Only a dentist can examine your child’s wisdom teeth and take an x-ray to determine their status. Then, you can decide whether to remove them or not. Wisdom teeth should definitely go if, again:

  • They cause severe pain and infect nearby tissue.
  • They start to crowd other teeth due to lack of room.
  • They are impacted, or stuck just beneath the gums.

If your child has none of these symptoms, some dentists recommend removal anyway, before your teen turns 20 and while extraction is easier. Teeth roots and bones are still relatively soft and not fully formed when your child is a teenager, and children usually heal faster than adults.

Surprisingly, your teen does not have to give up their wisdom teeth if there’s enough room in their jaw and they suffer no symptoms. Recent studies show third molar removal is not always necessary, and some experts argue that teeth should be left alone in these cases. The same study shows that the majority of people that opted to keep their wisdom teeth had no problems.

Only your dentist will be able to tell if wisdom teeth show signs or changes that necessitate removal. Contact Silverstone Family Dental for more information about your teenager and wisdom teeth. We can help you decide whether those wisdom teeth should stay or go.