Man with Jaw PainA famous quote says that you begin to develop wisdom teeth the first time you bite off more than you can chew. In other words, we tend to see wisdom teeth as a sign that we have reached the time of maturity where we begin to make our own mistakes.

For many people, wisdom teeth symbolize a period only of toothaches and dental visits. Often, it becomes wise, or necessary, to have them removed. If you are an adult who has still not taken this step, you could be asking if you have waited too long to have your wisdom teeth pulled.

What are wisdom teeth?

Every human being has four types of teeth in their mouths. Those in the front of your mouth are called incisors. The name may make you think of scissors, and for good reason. They are designed to cut your food.

If you can think of your mouth as a square, the teeth in the corners are called canines and, like their name implies, their function is to grip and rip your food. Reaching back, the next teeth you feel are premolars, which are the larger, more flat teeth that help to further pulverize the food you eat.

The final groups of teeth are located way in the back, called molars. You have three sets of these. Two sets of molars develop in early childhood and the third does not show up until your late teens or 20s. This third set of molars is commonly referred to as wisdom teeth and they are the last teeth you will grow.

When should I have wisdom teeth pulled?

Your mouth and jaw perform many critical functions. The ability to eat and speak is essential for survival and you cannot do either very well without your teeth. Therefore, how you take care of your mouth can mean the difference between pleasure and pain.

Trips to the dentist can be a stressful experience because most of us don’t do a great job at cleaning our teeth on our own. Honestly, do you always brush for at least two minutes after every meal and remember to floss between all teeth? Still, even if you do all this, it is easy to miss the teeth in the very back of your mouth, where the wisdom teeth are found, and this can lead to the development of germs and serious oral diseases.

Approximately 90% of people experience some sort of wisdom teeth problems. The most common issue with wisdom teeth happens when the tooth cannot penetrate the gums, often because it is growing sideways or askew. This might cause it to push against the next tooth and ultimately lead to misalignment and pain.

Dentists recommend that you get your wisdom teeth pulled as soon as possible, typically in your teens. This allows for easier removal because the tooth will not be as large and the bones in your jaw will not be as rigid since you are still growing during this time. Also, early removal of wisdom teeth serves to eliminate any distress before it occurs.

Having your wisdom teeth pulled later in life might leave you vulnerable for increased hardship. For example, the wisdom teeth may have already damaged nearby teeth or gum disorders could now be more advanced.

What should you expect when you go to have your wisdom teeth pulled?

Since the removal of wisdom teeth is more difficult than simply pulling a regular tooth, the process may require cutting, usually done by a specialist called a maxillofacial or oral surgeon. Ordinarily, it is an in-office procedure done with either nitrous oxide or other tranquilizing medication to help you relax and minimize any possible discomfort.

You can anticipate some pain and inflammation immediately after the operation, as well as a limited diet. You should be able to resume normal activities within about two weeks, but it may take up to four weeks or more before you feel totally restored. It is best to discuss your individual situation with your dentist.

Can you keep your wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth do not pose a problem to everyone. For some people, wisdom teeth develop just fine, with no adverse effects for the mouth or other teeth. Even if your wisdom teeth do not cause problems for you, it is wise to have them checked by your dentist to ensure there are no underlying issues that may cause trouble later. These potential problems could include abnormal swelling around the tooth, infections, and undue pressure on surrounding teeth.

When none of these issues are present, you may choose to simply retain your wisdom teeth and avoid unnecessary surgery. Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant and keep a close eye on these teeth so you can catch any minor difficulties before they become major ones. In addition to oral exams, x-rays may be needed for a thorough assessment.