How Long Is Too Long to Have Wisdom Teeth?

How Long Is Too Long to Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth once helped prehistoric ancestors eat rough, uncooked foods. Over time, humans have evolved to have smaller jaws and different diets. This means you don’t necessarily need wisdom teeth — nor does everyone have room for them — but the teeth still erupt anywhere from your late teens to your early 20s

If your wisdom teeth fit in your jaw and they erupt through the gums without any issues, they may peacefully remain in your mouth. However, if they don’t erupt normally, they may cause complications. 

So how do you know when it’s OK to leave your wisdom teeth alone and when it’s time to remove them?  Kevin Miller, DDS, and our team at Dentistry in Paradise in Santa Barbara, California, provide specific guidance based on a physical exam and dental X-rays.

Why wisdom teeth might need extraction

The question of how long is too long to have wisdom teeth is easier to answer in regard to what type of symptoms your wisdom teeth cause rather than a specific length of time. Remember, not all wisdom teeth erupt at the same time.

Your teeth are impacted

In some cases, you may need to remove your wisdom teeth soon if they’re impacted, meaning they’re stuck below the gums. They can lead to complications if they remain in your mouth too long. 

Impacted wisdom teeth can damage other teeth or even become infected. If this happens, you may notice:

You can help avoid the problems related to impacted wisdom teeth by seeing a dentist to remove them before they become infected or damage your other teeth. Impacted teeth that are most likely to cause problems are ones that are crooked underneath your gums. Dr. Miller can assess the potential for wisdom teeth causing problems by looking at your X-rays.

Your teeth are partially impacted

If your wisdom teeth are partially impacted, they likely need to come out. This means they’ve partially emerged from below your gums, so they’re tricky to clean, and it’s very easy for bits of food to get stuck in your gums. This can lead to decay and infections.

You have cysts

In some cases, wisdom teeth can lead to the development of cysts. Known as dentigerous cysts, they form over impacted or partially impacted molars. These cysts may be asymptomatic initially but can cause serious complications over time. If you have cysts, don’t consider keeping your wisdom teeth any longer. 

Your wisdom teeth are jeopardizing the health of your other teeth

Wisdom teeth can exert pressure on adjacent molars and cause crowding and misalignment. If your wisdom teeth are jeopardizing the health and alignment of your existing teeth, Dr. Miller may recommend removal.

Your age

While age alone isn’t a deciding factor, younger individuals often have an easier recovery from wisdom teeth removal. If you’re experiencing issues with your wisdom teeth, addressing them sooner rather than later can contribute to a smoother recovery.

On the other hand, if you’re over 70, it’s generally not advised to remove your wisdom teeth.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth?

There just isn’t one single answer to this question, but you don’t have to make the decision to remove — or keep — your wisdom teeth on your own. The main factors for determining whether it’s too long to have your wisdom teeth are:

It’s possible to have a full set of wisdom teeth erupt without any issue, but that’s less common.  Dr. Miller reviews all of this with you. In fact, he may continue to monitor the growth of your teeth for months or years before taking action to remove them. If you decide to remove your wisdom teeth, you can expect anywhere from 3-7 days of recovery. 

If you’re concerned about your wisdom teeth, call Dr. Miller’s office at 805-967-0272. You can also request an appointment through our online portal.

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