Most people think of getting your wisdom teeth as an end-of-high-school event; certainly less exciting than prom, but perhaps not as bad as an AP Calculus final. But more people are now choosing to have their wisdom teeth monitored starting years earlier, sometimes as early as 11 or 12, and then having their wisdom teeth removed before they erupt. So why the change – and is it a good idea?
Wisdom Tooth Progression Begins Early
One good reason to start monitoring for wisdom teeth early is that, in some cases, they can actually begin to erupt much sooner than you might think. However, while it's rare for a 12-year-old to have their wisdom teeth, wisdom teeth do usually begin to form by this time, so it makes sense to have regular X-rays done to monitor the process and pick the right time for removal.
The Right Removal Time
Most dentists consider this to be when the root of the tooth has started to form but not finished. There are two main reasons for this. First, the surgery is simpler when the tooth has pushed closer to the surface of the jaw, requiring a less invasive cut, but before the root has become anchored in the jaw. Second, the younger a patient is when their wisdom teeth are removed, the easier surgical recovery is.
Removing Asymptomatic Teeth
Having wisdom teeth removed is a surgical procedure, and there are pros and cons to be weighed when deciding whether to have it done. If wisdom teeth are causing pain or coming in at an improper angle, then the choice is clear: they must be removed. But what if they're coming in straight and aren't causing any pain?
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, there may be some good reasons to have asymptomatic wisdom teeth removed as well. There are clear clinical links between retained wisdom teeth and periodontal disease. And periodontal disease means more than bleeding gums; it has been linked to a whole host of medical issues, from cardiovascular disease to stroke, most likely through causing inflammation in the body.
Of course, this is a discussion that must be had between a patient (or parent) and a dentist like Family Medical Dental Center. Each case will have individual factors. But in general, studies support the idea of removing all wisdom teeth as soon as it is reasonable to do so.