Wisdom teeth get their name from the fact that they show up late. While most of your permanent teeth show up by the time you enter your early teens, wisdom teeth take their time in appearing and usually don’t arrive until the late teens or early 20s. By that point, you’ve become at least a little wiser, and so your wisdom teeth appear to mark the occasion.
But there’s a problem with wisdom teeth, and that’s the fact that for many people the jaw just isn’t big enough to fit 32 teeth. And when your wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to call their own, they tend to push hard against your other teeth and move them out of alignment. This can cause all kinds of bite problems that need adult braces to correct and that wouldn’t have been a problem if your dentist had just removed the wisdom teeth first.
In fact, this problem has been so obvious for so long that wisdom teeth removal was one of the first services offered by early modern dentists. Pulling wisdom teeth out meant that more people could enjoy a straight smile, and while the removal process is a lot more comfortable for the patient today, the nature and the purpose of the oral surgery is exactly the same.
But even if your jaw is big enough to fit all 32 of your adult teeth, you still might want to remove your wisdom teeth. The fact that they sit all the way in the back and you aren’t used to brushing and flossing them properly means that it’s easy for them to develop a cavity or two each. Cavities can cause more cavities elsewhere in your mouth thanks to the fact that they contain a bunch of cavity-causing bacteria, so removing those back teeth is a good way to stop cavities in their tracks and you can obviously live without them.
Wisdom teeth cause problems because your jaw and your tooth count don’t completely add up. It’s not a new problem by any stretch, and even the solution is well over a century old. By removing your wisdom teeth just before they come in all the way or just afterward, you avoid the kind of stress they would put on your other teeth and you help ensure your smile stays straight and your bite stays regular. Just make sure you stay in touch with your family dentist so you’ll know when the time comes for the oral surgery.