One familiar rite of passage many teens experience is having their wisdom teeth removed. Given that this procedure obviously affects the teeth and it happens around the time many people get braces, you’re likely wondering how wisdom teeth affect orthodontics. As it turns out, the answer isn’t so straightforward.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Most people spend their teen years with just two molars at the end of each row of teeth. However, a third molar will remain under the gum line and begin to erupt during this transitional period from childhood to adulthood, hence the nickname, “wisdom teeth.” While these teeth come in naturally on their own, they can be the cause of some health concerns.
When Wisdom Teeth Become a Problem
Many patients do not have adequate room in their jaws for wisdom teeth to erupt, leading to several possible issues. Wisdom teeth can exacerbate problems of crookedness due to increased crowding. As the new molars come in, the existing teeth will be pushed closer together.
Other times, there simply isn’t enough room for the wisdom teeth to make it to the surface at all, and they become impacted under the gum line. This can cause the wisdom teeth to press against existing teeth below the gum line, causing soreness and possibly infection.
The risks of leaving wisdom teeth in can be compounded if they begin to erupt during orthodontic treatment. This is because the orthodontic appliances on the teeth are creating pressure to move them in a specific way without damaging them. If the factor of erupting molars is introduced, it throws this process out of balance. While the pressure on the teeth is normally safe, the added pressure of the wisdom teeth trying to erupt can cause the teeth to crack. This can lead to the need for root canals, crowns, or even tooth extraction.
Orthodontic Treatment and Wisdom Teeth
Each patient will be different in terms of whether or not they need their wisdom teeth removed. Some patients may need just one removed, while others will need all four removed.
So, you may be wondering, “Should I get braces before or after my wisdom teeth are removed?” The answer is up to you and your orthodontist. Many people prefer to have their kids get orthodontic treatment when they are preteens or early teens to get it out of the way and to avoid further oral health problems. In this case, it’s even more important to keep following up with regular dental visits so your dentist can look for signs it’s time to remove the wisdom teeth. If someone has already had braces, erupting wisdom teeth can cause the corrected teeth to shift again.
Other times, it’s simply easier to start with a clean slate and begin orthodontic treatment after wisdom teeth are removed.
Checking in regularly with a dentist and orthodontist will provide the information you need to make the best decision when it comes to your teen’s wisdom teeth.