What are wisdom teeth?

Four out of five young adults experience problems with their wisdom teeth. When left untreated these issues can manifest as more costly and risky conditions. Some of these are:

  • Abscesses and other infections
  • Periodontal disease
  • Cavities
  • Damage to adjacent teeth
  • Crowding of the surrounding teeth
  • Cyst or tumor development

Wisdom teeth are the four teeth at the back of your upper and lower jaws on either side of your mouth. Historically wisdom teeth were used by our ancestors to grind their foods for proper digestion. Their diets contained a high percentage of hard nuts, raw plants and tough meats. The large, powerful wisdom teeth were used to break down these foods properly for digestion.

Today, what we eat, the way we eat and how we prepare food have eliminated our need for wisdom teeth. With this lack of need, we are actively evolving towards having no wisdom teeth. Currently, about 20-25% of the population is born with one to three wisdom teeth (instead of four), and 35% are born with no wisdom teeth at all.

If your wisdom teeth have the space to grow in without issue, they can be left as they are and function like the rest of your teeth. If you are among those with wisdom teeth and without the necessary space at the back of the jaws to accommodate them, they can become impacted. “Impacted” means that your wisdom teeth are fully or partially stuck under tissue and gums.

What are the signs I need my wisdom teeth removed?

How do I know if my wisdom teeth are impacted, if active disease has developed, or if they should be removed? 

You may feel a pain or tenderness in the back of your gums or jaw. Redness and swelling may be present around the tooth (or teeth). You may also experience headaches or jaw aches, bad breath or an unpleasant taste when biting down on or near the area.

It is also possible to experience zero or minimal pain and tenderness, even when active disease develops in the area.

The most effective way to determine if your wisdom teeth are impacted, inflamed or if periodontal disease is present is with a professional examination.

Horizontal wisdom tooth on Panoramic dental tooth X-ray examination

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

At what age should my child have their wisdom teeth evaluated? 

Age 15 is usually the ideal age for wisdom teeth removal. In teenagers and young adults, the roots of the teeth have not fully formed, and the bones of the jaws are softer. This reduces healing time and the risk of damage to nearby nerves and other structures. Removing wisdom teeth in adults is more difficult and has a slower recovery process compared to younger patients.

We recommend having your child evaluated at age 15. Remember, consultations are free!

Little cute adorable happy caucasian blond kid girl at dentist office at dentist check-up of dental braces. Child during orthodontist visit and oral cavity treatment. Children tooth care and hygiene

Can wisdom teeth fall out naturally?

This is a fair question to ask. Considering we’ve all had baby teeth that fell out and were replaced by ‘adult’ teeth, you might think that wisdom teeth could do the same thing. It would be nice if it was that simple, but wisdom teeth do not fall out naturally. They are the final set of teeth and they don’t have replacements. They are meant to stay.

Because they are permanent teeth, they can cause complications due to misalignment, crowding, or impaction. These problems require professional attention from Orthodontic experts in Asheville like BRO. If you’re having trouble with tooth, mouth, or jaw pain, contact us!

Woman experiences pain from her wisdom teeth in Asheville, NC

Am I too old to have my wisdom teeth removed?

Age is a common concern for people with wisdom teeth. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old; they can be removed. Age, in itself, is not a barrier to wisdom teeth removal.

In fact, wisdom teeth can be removed at any age. Younger adults get their wisdom teeth removed more often than middle-aged people, but that doesn’t mean our professional orthodontists can’t help you. We have helped young and old deal with the troubles of wisdom teeth. The real focus should be on the condition of your teeth and your overall oral health. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or older, if your wisdom teeth are causing pain, crowding, or other dental issues, come into BRO for a dental check-up to see your options for treatment.

Age shouldn’t hold you back from treatment. In fact, it should encourage you to get treatment as soon as possible. As we age, the complications from wisdom teeth can cause even larger problems. On top of that, recovery from treatment may take longer if you’re older.

Don’t let the number of candles on your birthday cake hold you back from seeking the dental care you need. At BRO, we’re committed to ensuring that all your wisdom teeth-related questions are answered and that you receive the best possible care, regardless of age.


What does a wisdom teeth exam look like?

At Blue Ridge Orthodontics, we offer consultations virtually. We offer our first consultations online because your time is valuable, and we believe you should make an informed decision about the medical practitioners you see.

This complimentary consultation provides an opportunity for one of our experienced oral surgery coordinators to hear and discuss your concerns and goals, medical history, and current medications, and to talk through your x-rays – either taken by our office at a previous orthodontic exam, or by your dental office. (If you do not have a recent x-ray of your teeth and jaws, your consultation will be in-person instead of virtually to allow those to be taken.) All x-rays will be reviewed by our team of expert oral surgeons.

Next, we’ll talk through symptoms you have (if any). Once your initial questions have been answered and you decide to move forward with our team, we will set up a time that works with your schedule for you to come into our office.

consultation for dental extractions at Blue Ridge Orthodontics oral surgery department

How are wisdom teeth treated?

Wisdom teeth that are actively infected or pose a significant future risk should be removed through surgery. This is done through IV sedation unless discussed otherwise during in-person treatment in one of our three office locations in North Carolina, including Asheville, Brevard, or Hendersonville.

If no issues are discovered with your wisdom teeth, you may also decide to take no steps, or to proactively remove them. It is common for wisdom teeth that have grown in completely to develop problems overtime. Periodic evaluation is necessary to detect future development of disease.

How long will recovery take?

Most young patients will need only a few days off work or school to feel well enough to resume some activity. You should abstain from rigorous activity, like team sports, for several days. During this time, it is very important to keep your mouth clean to avoid post-surgery infection. Our doctors will provide more information about your aftercare dos and don’ts.

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