Wisdom Teeth: Remove or Not to Remove

Getting your wisdom teeth extracted is seen by many as a rite of passage. However, most people are not bothered by their wisdom teeth at all. That is, until after they get them removed. Then, there could be stitches, swelling, soreness, and a week or more of a soft food diet. Dentists and other oral health professionals are starting to wonder whether this procedure is absolutely necessary. There is some evidence out there that suggests that for some individuals, the risks will outweigh any potential benefits.

Support for Not Removing Wisdom Teeth

Researchers are starting to study whether or not the extraction of wisdom teeth is always needed. For instance, people who have impacted wisdom teeth that are healthy and do not cause harmful symptoms might not need extraction.

The United Kingdom has actually abandoned the need for routine wisdom tooth removal in 1998 after a study showed no scientific evidence to support the procedure. In that same year, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh announced that the removal is not advisable unless there is a condition related to third molars.

When is Wisdom Tooth Removal Necessary?

There are some circumstances in which wisdom teeth should be removed. These can include:

  • Wisdom tooth infection
  • Having a cyst near a wisdom tooth
  • Tooth decay
  • Damage to other teeth
  • Jaw and wisdom tooth pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then there is a probable connection with your wisdom teeth and they need to be removed.

What are Some Risks Associated with Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Besides the routine nature of getting your wisdom teeth removed, the procedure is not worth the risks. Some of the risks include:

  • Infection around the site of the surgery
  • Having dry socket, or painful inflammation in the area of extraction
  • Complications due to reacting with the anesthesia
  • Lingual nerve damage
  • Damage to structures near the wisdom teeth or to existing dental work
  • Jaw fracture
  • Root fragments or bone splinters left in the gum tissue

Whether or not wisdom tooth extraction is needed should be decided on a case-by-case basis. For some patients, this procedure might not be necessary. For other people, the risk of having the surgery done could be acceptable if the wisdom teeth are causing painful symptoms.