Wisdom Teeth 101

Having one's wisdom teeth removed is not fun, but it might be easier sooner rather than later.

Removing your child’s wisdom teeth is almost viewed as a rite of passage in their lives – like getting your driver’s license or the first time you get to stay home on your own. These molars tend to develop between the ages of 17 and 21. Are you prepared?


What Exactly Are Wisdom Teeth?

Also called the third molars, wisdom teeth are the last molars to develop in the mouth. This is actually how they got their nickname of “Wisdom Teeth,” as they tend to develop when you are at a more mature status in life, compared to your other teeth. Biological anthropologists believe that these molars were used by our prehistoric ancestors to grind down high fiber foods such as nuts, roots, leaves and meats that were regularly consumed. As we evolved and our diet changed, the need for wisdom teeth became unnecessary. Today, AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) says that 85% of our population will need to have their wisdom teeth removed. While it may seem like there is no urgency or reason to have these molars removed if they are not causing any immediate problems – it is best to take them out before they cause bigger issues in the future.


Why Should My Child Have Their Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Often, you’ll see that oral surgeons will take out healthy molars to prevent problems later. As you age, the bones in your mouth become harder and more difficult to take out. Waiting too long could cause issues like heavy bleeding, fractured teeth, numbness or a slight loss of movement in your jaw after surgery.

There are times though that wisdom teeth cause clear damage or pain in the mouth. Other than preventative measures, here are a few other reasons third molars may need to be removed by an oral surgeon:

  • Damage to Other Teeth: If your dentist sees your wisdom teeth growing in at the wrong angle or without enough room, these molars can push other teeth out of the way and cause mouth pain and bite problems.
  • Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Wisdom teeth live embedded in your gums. If teeth are unable to emerge properly, they'll eventually be impacted into the jaw. This could result in multiple things like infection, affected bone support, or even the ability for a cyst to form, which is harmful to the roots of your other teeth.
  • Partially Erupted Wisdom Teeth: Partially erupted wisdom teeth will make it more difficult to keep the tooth and surrounding teeth clean. This can allow bacteria to become trapped, which can cause an infection or gum disease.


What is the Process of Removing Wisdom Teeth?

How wisdom teeth are removed depends on their position and stage of development. You should always take your child to an oral surgeon for them to perform an examination and give you an idea of what to expect in regards to the removal of these molars.

Post-surgery, it’s important for your child to rest. They will need to ice the area off and on for the next 48 hours. Soft foods are recommended for the first few days after the surgery. It is also recommended not to use a straw for the first week because it will disturb the site. A nutritionally balanced diet is essential for well-being, gaining back your strength, feeling less pain and healing quickly. At Sharma Oral Surgery, we provide all of our patients an after-care goody bag with tips on how to treat the affected site, meals they can try, ice packs, and even a pint of ice cream to enjoy during recovery.

Although it's recommended to get your wisdom teeth removed, if your wisdom teeth are healthy, fully erupted, in the correct position and properly cleaned with continued oral hygiene, it is okay to keep them. However, always consult a dental professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding wisdom teeth.


Dr. Sharma is a board certified Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon at Sharma Oral Surgery. He is a diplomat of the Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, and is a member of the Charlotte Dental Society and the North Carolina Society of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. 

For more information on keeping your child safe and well, visit pedsurgical.com.