Wisdom Teeth and Orthodontic Treatment

If you or your child are currently in braces, you have probably learned quite a bit about your teeth, and about orthodontics in general, throughout the course of your treatment with Langford Orthodontics. But there is one related subject that you might be lacking in knowledge on: wisdom teeth. Though they may not be an obvious choice of orthodontic discussion, your wisdom teeth can play a part in your overall oral health, and it is not unusual for patients to wonder if they can affect a smile that is been straightened by braces. Should you be worried about wisdom teeth moving teeth as they come in? Should you have them removed once they are in? Can they be removed if they come in while you are in braces? To find out the answers to these questions and more, keep reading!

What are wisdom teeth, anyway?

Wisdom teeth are the third and last molars, found at the very back on each side of the upper and lower jaws. These are the final teeth to erupt through the gums, and they usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. Most adults will have four wisdom teeth, but some people will not develop all four. Although these teeth can erupt without any problems, they will often lack sufficient space to erupt properly, causing them to become impacted, which we will discuss in detail below.

Historically, our ancestors needed large and powerful jaws to be able to get the most out of a diet full of rough, coarse food like leaves, roots, nuts, and meats. As our diet has evolved to include more soft foods that do not wear down the teeth as much, our jaws have become smaller,

and for many people, wisdom teeth simply do not fit in their mouths anymore.

Are wisdom teeth always painful?

Not always, no. Some people will have their wisdom teeth come through properly aligned. While there may be some tenderness around the gums where the teeth are erupting, it will not necessary be painful. In cases like this, we will not normally need to take any further action.

For others, however, erupting wisdom teeth can be a painful or uncomfortable experience. For instance, if there is not enough room in your mouth for the wisdom teeth, they can put pressure on the adjacent teeth, or if the teeth are coming in sideways, they can become jammed behind the last tooth in the mouth. This is the impaction we mentioned above, and it can lead to swollen and infected gums. Wisdom teeth grow in stages rather than all at once, so there will likely be a few rounds of discomfort before they full erupt.

x-ray of wisdom teeth

Will my wisdom teeth need to removed?

This is an incredibly common question that unfortunately does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the severity and frequency of symptoms, as well as the impact the wisdom teeth are having on the rest of your mouth as they erupt.

Wisdom teeth removal would typically be recommended if:

  • The teeth are only partially erupted and impossible to clean thoroughly, causing recurrent infections
  • The erupting wisdom teeth have the potential to damage the adjacent healthy molars

An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Langford will be able to tell how your wisdom teeth are coming through by taking an x-ray of your mouth. Based on the results, he will be able to determine if any future treatment seems likely.

Can my wisdom teeth undo my orthodontic results?

The short answer is no. Timing is the major issue at play here. Some patients will see a slight shifting of the teeth, known as a relapse, in their late teen to early adult years, and we know this is when wisdom teeth tend to come in as well. The University of Iowa actually conducted research on this subject, placing sensors between the teeth that compared the pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth. There was no difference between the two, meaning that the wisdom teeth do not, in fact, exert enough pressure on the teeth in front of them to cause them to shift. But our teeth do tend to shift a bit when we are at that age,  and if wisdom teeth are not a key factor in that, what is?

It is pretty simple: we get older!

As we age, our teeth begin to show some overall signs of wear and tear. When that natural drifting begins to occur, it can cause our teeth to overlap and move slightly forward. As the teeth begin to overlap, the upper teeth can press the lower teeth in towards the tongue. Some residual jaw growth can still be happening around this time, too, forcing the teeth into positions that could be undesirable.

You have probably heard us remind you over and over about how important it is to wear your retainer faithfully once your braces come off. This is one of the biggest reasons why. When you wear your retainer exactly as Dr. Langford instructs you, you are giving your smile the best chance to stay as straight as straight as possible after treatment.

Girl at doctors office

Get wise about your wisdom teeth with Langford Orthodontics

Though your wisdom teeth coming in are not likely to affect the straight teeth you have achieved through braces or aligners, removing them may still be recommended to ensure the overall health of your mouth. Because every case is different, we recommend you consult with an experienced oral surgeon or just ask Dr. Langford for further direction and advice about the possible benefits of having your wisdom teeth removed and how this might affect your orthodontic treatment in long-term.

Langford Orthodontics has a strong team of skilled staff who are dedicated to providing compassionate care to each patient we treat. We believe that good communication and understanding are an integral part of getting the very best orthodontic results. It is important to us that our patients feel empowered by their treatment! Please feel free to come to us at any time with any questions or concerns you have regarding your treatment, including whether or not wisdom teeth can affect it. We are always here to help set your mind at ease as you work towards a beautifully straight smile that will last a lifetime!

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