wisdom teeth

How Do Braces Intersect With Wisdom Teeth?

May 24th, 2022

A major rite of passage for many young adults is getting their wisdom teeth out. It’s not the case for everyone; plenty of people have room for their third molars and a surprising number don’t grow some or all of their wisdom teeth to begin with. Why do so many people end up needing these teeth removed?

What’s the Deal With Wisdom Teeth?

The leading theory about why we grow an extra set of molars that often doesn’t fit is the Soft Foods Theory. Basically, the modern diet of cooked and processed foods doesn’t stimulate as much jaw growth as what our prehistoric ancestors had to eat, so the jaw often doesn’t grow large enough for those teeth. The trade-off is that our teeth don’t wear out so fast from eating extra tough food all the time.

Wisdom Teeth and Orthodontic Treatment

Wisdom teeth usually aren’t a problem for orthodontic patients. They typically aren't a factor in dental crowding, so we generally don’t remove them for the sake of the straightness of the other teeth. If the wisdom teeth do need to be removed due to being impacted or not erupting properly, that can be done while the braces are still on or after the braces have been removed. Post-braces smiles won’t become crooked again because of wisdom teeth - but they will if the patient neglects their retainers!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Wisdom Teeth and Braces

May 28th, 2021

ONE OF THE BIG rites of passage for young adults is wisdom teeth removal. Of course, there are people who can actually fit those third molars in their jaws comfortably and there are a startling number who don’t even grow them in the first place, but for people who do need their wisdom teeth removed, it’s fun to post pictures of their swollen cheeks and videos of anesthesia antics while enjoying lots of ice cream and smoothies. So what’s the deal with these teeth so many people need removed?

Why Do We Have Teeth That Don’t Fit?

What’s the point of growing an extra set of molars if they don’t even fit in our mouths? We used to think it was all about genes leftover from prehistoric days, but more recently, the leading theory is that it’s actually about the foods we eat compared to what our ancient ancestors ate. Bone can atrophy or grow depending on what we put it through (kind of like muscle), and we simply aren’t giving our jaw bones the same resistance our hunter-gatherer ancestors did.

Prehistoric people’s jaws got an intense workout from grinding up the fibrous plants and raw meat in their diet, which stimulated enough bone growth to make room for the third molars. Today, we eat softer foods that are cooked and processed, so it’s less common for someone’s jaw to grow big enough to fit the wisdom teeth. (We don’t recommend attempting to test this theory, though.)

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Often Extracted?

Despite the growing percentage of people who never get wisdom teeth or don’t get the full set of four, most still get them between their teens and early twenties, and that can be a problem when there isn’t room. These wisdom teeth tend to end up impacted, or trapped under the gums. They can form cysts or damage the bone tissue or roots of neighboring teeth. This is why extraction is recommended so often.

How Do Wisdom Teeth Interact With Orthodontic Treatment?

Modern evidence shows that wisdom teeth don’t contribute greatly to dental crowding, so they don’t need to be removed for the sake of the straightness of the rest of the teeth. If they do need to be removed for other reasons, that can happen during orthodontic treatment. It’s also a myth that a post-braces smile can be made crooked by wisdom teeth. Our teeth naturally drift as we get older and wear them out more, but not due to wisdom teeth. (So make sure to keep wearing your retainers!)

Let’s Take Care of That Smile!

Everyone’s situation with wisdom teeth is different. Some people need them removed due to impaction, some don’t grow all or any of them, and some get to enjoy the added chewing power of an extra set of molars. We can help you figure out which category you fit into and answer any questions you may have about wisdom teeth and orthodontic treatment.

We love seeing our patients’ smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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