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Should Adults Get Their Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Updated on May 6, 2015
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Wisdom teeth removal is one of those events kids either fear or anticipate (if only to avoid going to school for a week). There is a reason dentists and oral surgeons recommend pulling wisdom teeth during teen years. When wisdom teeth begin to emerge and develop, the roots are not yet fully grown, making extraction relatively simple and risk-free. After about the age of 24, however, the roots are almost (if not already) fully grown, and there may be complications with a traditional extraction. The presence of wisdom teeth does not benefit the jaw in any way. At this point the decision calculus becomes about whether the risks of infection from leaving the teeth in outweigh the risks of oral surgery.

X-Rays Can Help Shed Some Light

Ask your doctor for a CT scan of your jaw. The initial xray done on the jaw is two-dimensional and will not show alveolar nerve positioning vis a vis the roots. A CT scan will. If you can confirm via a CT scan that the roots of your lower wisdom teeth are not touching or intertwined with the nerve, and extraction is still possible.

Benefits Of Removing Wisdom Teeth In Adult Years

The major benefit to removing wisdom teeth as an adult is preventing infections, cysts, and general jaw pain if the teeth have become impacted. In rare cases, wisdom teeth grow in perfectly straight, weakening the case for extraction. In even rarer cases, only one or two of the four teeth grow at all. However, if the teeth become impacted, that means that there is insufficient room for them to fully grow, creating tension with the other teeth and making them difficult to clean.

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Should Adults Remove Their Wisdom Teeth?

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Drawbacks Of Removing Wisdom Teeth In Adult Years

There are actually a handful of drawbacks when it comes to wisdom teeth removal after the age of 24:

  • Roots are adjacent to or intertwined with the alveolar nerve, which supplies sensory branches to the lower lip and chin. Because a full extraction involves removing the teeth along with the roots, the alveolar nerve can become damaged. Should this occur, paralysis of the lip, chin, or face is possible. It is possible that the roots are not touching the nerve at all, in which case this risk is substantially mitigated.
  • Costs. Depending on your dental insurance plan, wisdom teeth removal may or may not be covered. The cost for removing wisdom teeth can be anywhere from $300-$600 per tooth, so the up front cost may not be worth it.
  • A coronectomy procedure carries risks of its own. A coronectomy is the alternative surgical procedure to extraction, and is performed when wisdom teeth roots are intertwined with the alveolar nerve. The procedure involves cutting off the crowns of the teeth and leaving the roots in. This is in many ways, a short term solution. If an infection forms during the process itself, an extraction will become necessary (leaving infected roots in the gums will cause the infection to spread, further complicating matters).

So there you have it. Medical consensus does not exist when it comes to wisdom teeth removal for adults. It is best to visit a doctor and evaluate your situation before making any hasty decisions.

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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Whoah, getting wisdom teeth removed is EXPENSIVE! I'm glad I've gotten it out of the way, though it's good to know the upsides and downsides of handling this as an adult- I've been talking with some friends about it and now have some more fodder to add to the discussion!

    • Camille Harris profile image

      Camille H 4 years ago from SF Bay Area

      Yikes! I have all four of my wisdom teeth. They don't seem to be causing me any trouble, and my dentist says they're basically OK. Anyway, this is a great Hub, Marina! Definitely gave me a lot to think about.

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

      I was about eighteen when I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled at the same time. I had no choice, as they were impacted. Afterward, my face swelled to the size of a pumpkin and I was in excruciating pain for about two weeks. Fast forward a few decades. I noticed that the gum tissue at the back of my upper-right jaw was turning gray. I went to a maxilliofacial surgeon, had a biopsy done and learned I had a fairly unique type of cancer called amelio blastoma. I asked the surgeon what can cause such a thing. He replied that no one knew with certainty but the most likely trigger is having impacted wisdom teeth. I have already undergone three surgeries, which removed two molars and an amount of bone -- and I'm now facing my fourth surgery, as the damn disease keeps recurring. They tell me this next surgery will have to be "radical," meaning that some sizable portion of my upper jaw will have to be excised. I will need a maxilliofacial surgeon, a reconstructive surgeon and a pathologist all in the operating room at the same time -- first to determine how deep to burrow depending on what the pathologist finds microscopically as chunks of myself are put to his/her testing -- then the plastic surgeon to reconstruct the bone that has been removed. I'd like to ignore the whole thing but the disease is only inches from moving into my brain. A unique feature of amelio blastoma is that it isn't malignant but locally highly "aggressive," as the doctors use the term. It kills off healthy cells relentlessly until EVERY one of the diseased cells is removed. This proves to be a huge challenge for the surgeons and pathologists. The "rule of thumb" that the surgeons use is to cut well beyond where they suspect the margins of affected tissue are located. Thus, they end up removing healthy tissue/bone as a safety precaution. The pathologists are challenged because they have to look at swaths of tissue/bone and ensure there is no sign of the disease anywhere near the outer edges. They have been wrong three times in the past, so heaven only knows how this fourth surgery will turn out in the long run. The message here is for anyone diagnosed with impacted teeth. If you start to feel ANY discomfort as your wisdom teeth descend, have them removed asap.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I didn't have much problem when I had all four of mine removed but years later developed horrible facial nerve problems and was told that it could have been caused when I had my wisdom teeth extracted.

    • profile image

      rosie 2 years ago

      Dnt go to kaiser they messed up on me

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Having one wisdom tooth removed in my teens was an easy process. After that, I waited several years to get the other three removed. Those few years really made a huge difference in the aftermath of the surgery and the intensity of the pain and swelling. Your advice to get this done early when the teeth are impacted is smart.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      my daughter has her wisdom tooth not fully grown even she is 21 years old. Didn't remove it

    • Fawntia profile image

      Fawntia Fowler 14 months ago from San Francisco

      I had three wisdom teeth removed. I remember reading about it and not being quite convinced that it was necessary, but I did it anyway. At least the laughing gas was interesting. The recovery was not so fun.

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