Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

Do All Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on April 5th, 2011

It seems that getting your wisdom teeth removed is just a “rite of passage.” But is it true that all wisdom teeth have to be removed?

Although some people are born without wisdom teeth (and some have extras), most of us have four. Officially known as “third molars,” wisdom teeth become visible in x-rays between 10 and 15 years of age and become a concern around the time we graduate from high school (17 or so). Some patients become aware of their wisdom teeth because they hurt, but most just find out they have them from their dentist as he (or she) evaluates their x-rays during a routine examination.

Today, around 90% of Americans have their wisdom teeth removed, but why? Is it because they make the other teeth crooked? That question was the topic of another article I authored entitled “Do Wisdom Teeth Make Your Teeth Crooked?” The take-home-message was that while wisdom teeth may be a factor, there are other things that are probably more to blame. So what are legitimate reasons to have your wisdom teeth removed?

The #1 reason that wisdom teeth need to be removed is that there just isn’t enough room. This usually causes them to remain fully or partially unerupted. If the wisdom teeth remain trapped deep in the bone, they are referred to as “impacted.” Your oral surgeon will discuss the pros and cons of going after teeth in this position. (There are important nerves in that area.) If they are visible in the mouth but don’t have enough room to come in all the way, they are classified as partially impacted. Partially impacted wisdom teeth almost always need to be removed. Because they cannot be cared for properly, they are more susceptible to decay and gum disease. Since they are closer to the surface than fully impacted wisdom teeth, they are easier to remove and there is less risk of damage to the underlying nerves.

The #2 reason that wisdom teeth are removed is because they are difficult to care for. If a patient has decay or gum disease associated with their wisdom teeth, the dentist will usually just recommend removing them. Not only are they hard for the patient to take care, they are equally hard for the dentist to fix. Removal of wisdom teeth in this condition is usually the best option even if there is sufficient space.

So when is it OK to keep your wisdom teeth? The answer is simple. You should keep them if they have plenty of room and are healthy. Even though most wisdom teeth DO end up needing to be removed, the reason usually has little to do with them causing the rest of your teeth to get crooked.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

77 comments so far in response to “Do All Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?”

  1. Chrizza Dela Cruz says:

    Hello I’m planning to have my braces on the middle of october. I have a complete set of teeth and no other teeth are removed since I was in grade 3. But the problem is, my teeth are going in front which causes overbite that’s why I have to wear braces. Is there a need to remove my 4 wisdom teeth?

    • These are two separate issues. You either have room for your wisdom teeth or you don’t. Your overbite is unrelated to them and will get no better or worse if they are or are not removed.

  2. alanna says:

    I have to get two of my regular back teeth pulled ,would that mean there would be room to keep my wisdom teeth

    • Hi Alanna. The research indicates that 85% of us must have our wisdom teeth removed if we have no other extractions. For those that have extractions for orthodontic reasons, that percentage drops to 50%. So although I can’t say in your case specifically, your chances will improve with the extractions.

  3. Oliver says:

    I have refused braces due to unrelated and private reasons but i do have wisdom teeth. I was highly recommended braces and so will i need my wisdom teeth removed in the future?

    • The need for braces and the need for having your wisdom teeth removed are completely separate issues. I would recommend that you discuss your wisdom teeth with an oral surgeon if you are not interested in braces.

      • Felix says:

        OK, how about this- two of my wisdom teeth haven’t epeutrd yet! Does having half of my wisdom (teeth) make it dangerous?

        • There is nothing dangerous with having only some of the wisdom teeth removed. Many times we have lower ones removed but leave uppers (if they are healthy, have space, and occlude correctly with the lower second molars)

  4. Abdul says:

    I have a question. I have two wisdom teeth in my upper jaw and there inside the gum.. i do not feel any pain from them or nothing am i supposed to remove them because they might cause something later or no ? because i am scared to remove them .. and i am thinking on putting braces on..

  5. angeliva says:

    Hi I’m planning to get braces, but I insisted to remove my 4 wisdom tooth. So my ortho decided to remove 4 molors b4 I do the treatment? If I remove all 4 molars will my growing wisdom teeth will get space for their eruption after braces????
    I’m planning to remove my 4 wisdom when they are erupted.

  6. Stephen says:

    I have had issues with my lower wisdom teeth… one being partially impacted, and the second recently being abscess. I’m 55 years old and have always been reluctant to have them removed. With that said I am going to have at least the lower 2 removed. Is it essential to have the upper wisdom teeth extracted as well?

  7. mjay says:

    I have a mild crowding of my lower front teeth and I would like to undergo orthodontics. Both of my lower wisdom tooth are impacted. My lower left impacted 3rd molar is slightly erupting although there is not enough room for it to fully erupt, only a small part of the cusp can be seen (3mm x 3mm).

    My orthodontist suggested to remove 2 lower bicuspid and 2 upper bicuspid, and the 2 upper 3rd molar.. and then put on braces. She will keep the lower wisdom tooth and wait for them errupt. I’m 27, and I’m a little worried that the impacted wisdom tooth will decay before they will ever come out or they will never come out and might be needing surgery in the future.

    I’m torn between removing 4 healthy bicuspid to undergo orthodontics vs. undergoing a surgery to remove all four wisdom tooth first before undergoing braces. Which is a better option?

    Thank you so much for your help.

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