Contrary to popular belief, "wisdom teeth" are not so-called because they make you smarter. Okay, actually, we here at the Oakville Place Dental Office don't really know of too many people who hold this belief, but you never know. Still, we should probably realize that any reader of this blog is probably "wiser" than to believe that!
Anyway, the truth is that wisdom teeth are simply a third set of molars that probably got their esteemed-sounding name due to the fact that they usually grow in when someone is in their most formative years of education; between the ages of 13 and 25. However, there is an irony here, because wisdom teeth often become problematic due to the fact that over the course of our evolution human being's jaws have shrunken in size, but our number of teeth have comparatively remained the same. Thus, wisdom teeth often do not have the room to grow in and therefore can become impacted, and, often even if they do manage to grow in, they can cause problems like overcrowding of the teeth, and thus must still be removed.
Originally it was believed that the only proper, safe time to remove wisdom teeth was when they had fully emerged. However, as dental science and understanding has advanced, we have come to realize that it is important to deal with any potential problem with wisdom teeth as soon as it is possible to do so. In fact, nowadays it is advisable to start planning on whether or not your wisdom teeth are going to be removed as soon as the roots for these renegade molars have begun to form, because often times the longer you wait to decide to have them removed, the more extreme and difficult the procedure is to both administer and undergo.
So, your dentist will more than likely use X-rays to assess what the proper course of action is. Depending on the positioning of the teeth and the overall shape of the face, the risk of impaction or other problems varies between patients. While most people that have them end up getting them removed, some people choose not to do so and just take their chances, which can be many: misaligned bites, infections, TMJ and inflamed gum tissue, just to name a few. Also, the longer one waits to remove wisdom teeth the more likely one is to suffer the rare, but possible, ill-effects of having the surgery done, like nerve damage and numbness. Of course, the likelihood of your wisdom teeth causing problems later on down the line can be to a certain degree unknown, however usually an educated guess as to the future outcome of them can be made by your dentist or oral surgeon.
Finally, no matter what, if your dentist tells you that you should have your wisdom teeth removed, it is important not to let fear of the procedure guide your decision making process. Although the thought of having any teeth removed can be quite a frightening prospect, it is vital to keep in mind that the removal of wisdom teeth is an extremely common procedure, and with modern, pain-free dentistry, you know you will be in good hands during the procedure. So, when it comes to your wisdom teeth, it is important to make the "wise" (sorry, last one!) choice and do the right thing for both your smile and health if it is recommended that you have them removed.