Ortho Articles

Do wisdom teeth cause crowding?

"Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment." -- Tao Te Ching

Wisdom teeth often need removing for many reasons. However studies show that extraction of the third molars exclusively for the purpose of preventing incisor crowding is unwarranted. Human teeth naturally drift forward in our mouths over time and when your teeth are not ideally aligned proximally, crowding occurs. The third molars exert very little force as they develop. Most crowding is caused by the eruption of the second molars due to a lack of jaw growth.

The coincidental timing of the third molars eruption and the last formative steps of the second molars cause people to mistakenly relate the two events. They think their wisdom teeth caused their front teeth to crowd. For teens that had braces, wearing a retainer can prevent this crowding from occurring regardless of whether their third molars remain or have been removed.

Your third molars or "wisdom teeth" can cause a great deal of pain if they are impacted. Whether or not they are impacted or erupt normally they typically have little effect on the crowding or alignment of the rest of your teeth. However, if your wisdom teeth are causing you pain, having them removed early in life while your jaw bone remodeling is at its most active can reduce the amount of recovery time.

Wisdom teeth can cause damage to adjacent teeth. Because the wisdom teeth begin to form in early adolescence, most of the room in the jaw has already been taken by the earlier forming teeth. The wisdom teeth typically begin eruption in our late teens.

An impacted wisdom tooth can impede proper brushing and flossing around the second molars. This lack of proper hygiene can lead to decay of the second molar where the wisdom tooth is engaged. Impaction can also lead to infection. The most common cause of pain associated with wisdom teeth is the surrounding tissue becoming inflamed and irritated by the upper teeth when chewing. These infections can become serious and require surgery. Cysts or even tumors can form when the area surrounding the impacted tooth degenerates. This degeneration can weaken the jaw. Periodontal bone loss can result when the shallow gum behind the second molar is distorted by the wisdom tooth and allows bacteria to enter and deepen the pocket in the bone.

Complications from wisdom teeth extraction can include dry sockets, infection, and paresthesia or numbness of the lips, tongue and cheeks. The recovery time is significantly increased should any of these conditions develop. Consideration of upcoming commitments should be given to ensure that worst case scenarios have minimal impact on our daily routines.

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