Should wisdom teeth be removed?

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A common concern asked of Dr Lance Timmerman in Tukwila is about wisdom teeth.Since some dentists tell patients that they are “fine,” the patients assume any advice to the contrary is suspicious.Are wisdom teeth BAD?  Why are they even CALLED wisdom teeth?

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All teeth have what is called an eruption pattern. We know that on AVERAGE, certain teeth appear at a certain age. It is not set in stone, so if your “6 year molars” don’t show until age 8, it doesn’t mean something is “wrong”. It DOES mean that your chronological age is different than your dental age…

The average life span hundreds of years ago was 30-40 years. Wisdom teeth usually appeared around age 20, when people were nearing the end of life, a period of time when they were likely as wise as they were going to get. As time marched on, we live longer, but the nickname for third molars “stuck”.

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Even if there was enough room for wisdom teeth, they weren’t around long enough to present any issues.  For that reason, many people (including dentists) feel that it isn’t a big deal to just leave them.  A “sleeping dog” of sorts.

But the reality is that while we wait for “issues” we allow OTHER teeth to suffer. Once the flora in our mouth (the bacteria that we can’t eliminate but only hope to control) shifts from benign to virulent, it tends to stay that way.  Most wisdom teeth are hard to clean, even with room, since the pockets START deep.  As a general rule, we heal much better at age 20 than we do at age 60.  Systemic issues develop over time.  A broken hip at 20 heals uneventfully, but it may be life threatening at age 60.

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