Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt in the very back of the mouth. Not everyone gets wisdom teeth, and for some who do, they don’t present a problem. But if your mouth is not large enough to accommodate your wisdom teeth, or if your wisdom teeth don’t fully erupt, issues can result. That’s why so many young people – approximately 50 million by some estimates – have their wisdom teeth removed. The vast majority of those people are under 25, which makes sense because wisdom teeth normally start to erupt in the late teens or early twenties, and if there are problems with the wisdom teeth those problems usually occur at that age. But just because the majority of people have their wisdom teeth removed at a young age doesn’t mean that older people should not have theirs removed. The truth is that you’re never too old to have your wisdom teeth removed – you just need to decide whether or not it’s worth it to have the procedure performed.
WHEN IS WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL THE BEST OPTION?
While it is true that some people are able to accommodate their wisdom teeth without pain or discomfort, this third set of molars is a challenge to care for. Most people who get wisdom teeth get four of them – one at the very back of the adult molars located on the top right, top left, bottom right, and bottom left of the mouth. Even when the teeth erupt normally and the person’s mouth is large enough to comfortably accommodate wisdom teeth, these molars are difficult to care for because they are located so far back in the mouth. This makes them more susceptible to decay, which can be an ongoing issue for some people.
If the wisdom teeth do not fully erupt, bacteria can grow. If the molars do not line up properly with other existing teeth, that can cause issues as well. In some cases, tumors can form around the wisdom teeth, and that can compromise the health of surrounding teeth and even the person’s jawbone. All of these issues are valid reasons to remove wisdom teeth.
HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?
If your wisdom teeth are causing problems, you can have them removed no matter what age you are. While it is true that it’s easier to remove wisdom teeth in younger patients because their roots have not completely formed and the extraction process is somewhat easier, you should not avoid the procedure just because you’re older. This is particularly true if your wisdom teeth are causing pain or discomfort, or if they are somehow compromising your overall health.
If you do decide to have your wisdom teeth removed as an older person, there are some associated risks that you should be aware of:
- You’ll need a longer period of time to recover. Many older patients require a full week to recover from wisdom teeth removal.
- There is some risk of damaging the nerve that controls feeling in the lower lip since roots grow toward that nerve as people age.
While you’re never too old for wisdom teeth removal, you should let your dentist help you decide whether or not this procedure is right for you.
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