Before we begin, we must mention that people of any age can have their wisdom teeth removed. There are people in their 80s who end up having one, two, or all four of their wisdom teeth removed because of an infection, or because the wisdom teeth are pushing into other teeth and causing crowding. Regardless of when a patient has their wisdom teeth taken out, most dentists agree that there is a certain time window within which a patient should ideally get their wisdom teeth extracted in order to reduce the risk of complications. Here, we assess the best age to have wisdom teeth removed, as well as why.
What Age is Best?
Most dentists believe that getting wisdom teeth taken out between the ages of 18 and 24 is best. This is because people tend to heal quicker when they are younger, and most people are in their physical prime between the ages of 18 and 24. By healing quicker, they will end up dealing with less pain and inflammation after the surgery is complete. The procedure is also simpler when the wisdom teeth are in their infancy, as they are more likely to cause trouble as a person ages.
Evolution and Obsolescence
Our ancestors required wisdom teeth because they served as backup teeth. To better illustrate, let's think of a set of backup tires. You keep extra tires handy in the event that something goes wrong and you need to replace them as soon as possible. With wisdom teeth, our ancestors had to deal with very harsh conditions. They had no toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, or dentists to take care of any dental issues.
Our ancestors also consumed foods that were very difficult to eat, such as tough meat and sinew. As such, the lack of proper hygiene and the toughness of the foods they ate would often cause them to lose teeth a lot quicker than most people would in modern times. As a result, the extra four teeth would essentially replace lost teeth to allow people to chew their food and stay alive.
However, as we have evolved, we no longer need wisdom teeth. In fact, our mouths are much smaller, on average, when compared to the mouths of our ancestors. As such, most people don’t have enough room in their mouths to house four extra teeth, although some do. In sum, wisdom teeth are similar to the human appendix or human tonsils in the sense that we have evolved to the point of not needing them anymore.
Why Wisdom Teeth Should be Removed
What ends up happening in most cases is wisdom teeth grow in crooked and push into other teeth, causing them to be crooked. Wisdom teeth may not erupt at all in some cases as well. When this happens, the wisdom teeth become impacted and can cause a whole host of problems, such as cysts, infections, or bacterial growths.
It is believed that 85% of people with wisdom teeth will need to have them removed at some point in their lives. For this reason, dentists recommend that patients take them out when they are young and strong to speed up the recovery process as well as reduce the risk of complications after surgery. Also, not everyone has four wisdom teeth. Some will only have two or three, while others are lucky enough to not have any wisdom teeth at all.
The Risk of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
In some cases, wisdom teeth will erupt completely and without interfering with adjacent teeth. If your wisdom teeth have fully erupted and have come in straight, and you are able to brush and floss them without any issues, then your dentist may not recommend that you remove them. However, in the vast majority of cases, wisdom teeth will not fully erupt properly or even erupt at all. Impacted wisdom teeth are such teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth do not erupt with the crown upright. They actually tilt forward and sometimes they form completely horizontally. As a result, the crown may face the front. Impacted wisdom teeth in particular can be very dangerous. They can put intense pressure on surrounding teeth and trigger a pain that is dull and constant, or in some cases, a severe pain that requires emergency extraction.
Sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth are only partially impacted, meaning a part of the tooth has erupted past the surface. In other cases, the tooth may remain completely encased in its developmental sac. Regardless, an impacted wisdom tooth serves as the ideal breeding ground for bacterial infections, cysts, abscesses, and a host of other oral health issues that can even prove fatal if left untreated.
How the Root Affects Extraction
Another reason why wisdom teeth should be taken out between the ages of 18 and 24 is because the root of the tooth will usually reach two-thirds of its complete size during this period. It is at this size that a wisdom tooth can be safely extracted. After the age of 24, the root is usually completely formed, which makes extraction much more difficult and complicated.
In sum, removing wisdom teeth between the ages of 18 and 24 will drastically reduce the risk of complications, and most young patients will recover very quickly and without the risk of the dreaded dry socket. In many cases, surgery can be done with local anesthesia for simple extractions. Sedation anesthesia, as well as general anesthesia, are also available options for more serious operations or for very anxious patients.
If you would like a no-obligation consultation and estimate in order to discuss your wisdom teeth extraction, then please visit our website. We can also be reached at 519-265-5115 if you’d like to book an appointment.