Q. I have a seventeen-year-old son. Many of his friends have had their wisdom teeth taken out. Does my son need to have his taken out as well?
A. Wisdom teeth are an interesting subject to say the least. A wisdom tooth is actually a 3rd molar; it is a tooth that most of us has or had at one time in our lives. It is so common to remove 3rd molars (wisdom teeth) that it almost seems like a rite of passage into adulthood.
In regard to your son, there are several different factors to consider. First, does he even have 3rd molars?
There are normally 4 third molars. Some people have fewer, and some people have none at all. Second, does he have the space for the teeth to come in and be healthy? The main reason to take out the 3rd molars is because there is not enough room for them to erupt properly. They normally try to come into the mouth around 18 years of age; however, this can vary by several years. Teeth that are impacted (can’t erupt) usually should be extracted. Teeth that are partially erupted can become infected and should be taken out before problems arise. Pain often occurs with teeth that are trying to come in; they exert pressure and can cause pain, such as headaches. Some individuals have space for the teeth and can live healthy lives with them in place.
The only way to know for sure if your son needs to have his wisdom teeth extracted is to see a dental professional. They will take a special x-ray called a panorex. This will allow them to see the entire mouth and evaluate if the 3rd molars can stay or if they need to go. If it is determined that extractions are necessary, your dentist will either do the procedure there or refer you to a specialist called an Oral Surgeon. Either way young adults are very resilient, so your son will be back to his old self in no time.
Mark D. McOmie, DMD
McOmie Family and Cosmetic Dentistry
5999 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421