The Widsom About Wisdom Teeth

The Latest Wisdom Behind the Well-Known Dental Procedure

Having your wisdom teeth removed—it’s so common it almost feels like a dental rite of passage. In fact, according to recent statistics, five million people a year in the U.S. have their wisdom teeth removed.

Wisdom teeth are the four permanent adult teeth located in the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom. Our mouths have room for 28 teeth, but with wisdom teeth included there are 32. Many of us can remember having this procedure done in our teens or early 20s—but why is that the most common time?

Dr. Nish Shah, DMD, MD, FACS, of Arizona Oral Facial and Implant Surgery, is a board-certified oral surgeon.

“There is no ideal age for wisdom tooth removal because everyone matures at a different rate,” he says. “But the average age is in the mid-teenage years, 14 to 18, before the roots have fully developed or the teeth have shifted.”

“In general, everybody needs to have their wisdom teeth removed,” Dr. Shah continues. “Our diets have changed over the last couple hundred years to a very refined diet and we just do not create enough space for the wisdom teeth to erupt. Additionally, many kids who go through orthodontic treatment do not want their teeth to get crowded from the wisdom teeth pushing and shifting their teeth.”

He explains that, many times, the first sign that the wisdom teeth are a problem is when they cause jaw pain and infections. Research has shown that removing wisdom teeth early has been beneficial by preventing crowding of teeth and damaging adjacent teeth, he adds.

“Impacted teeth can form cysts and tumors, so removing them is a preventative treatment,” Dr. Shah says.

But, when it comes time to have them removed, you need to make sure to consult with the right type of dental professional.

“Typically, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon removes the wisdom teeth,” Dr. Shah explains. “There are important structures located close to the teeth like a nerve or the sinus cavity, and it is crucial that the doctor removing the teeth knows how to handle the complications associated with wisdom teeth removal. As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I completed a six-year, hospital-based residency program; we are trained in how to manage every complication associated with wisdom tooth removal.”

When the procedure is done, there are new pain relief options out there for those who are worried about using opioids.

“We have been using a new medication to manage post-operative pain for the last few years that minimizes the need for narcotic pain medication,” Dr. Shah says. “This has been very popular with both patients and parents, especially in our current climate of opioid abuse and overdose.”

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