Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?

Can anybody explain to me this very weird American tradition of removing people’s wisdom teeth for absolutely no reason at all? I can’t go to a dentist without getting bugged about how my wisdom teeth need to be removed. When I ask why anybody would want to remove healthy teeth, I am invariably told that if they start to decay, it will be impossible to treat them as they are located deep inside the mouth. Then I ask why we don’t just wait until the problem arises and leave the teeth be for the moment but dentists keep bugging me about it.

Back in my own country, I heard many times that losing even a single healthy tooth has a negative impact on a person’s entire body. And here I’m being endlessly told to get rid of several healthy teeth. Is this just a ploy to get people to pay for an unnecessary procedure or is there some logic behind it?

N. actually allowed his dentist to talk him into removing his wisdom teeth, and in the process one of his crowns got nicked, so he had to go in for more painful and unnecessary treatment. I’m still looking for a dentist who will stop trying to convince me to have procedures I don’t want to have. I already get more than enough aggravation from an OB-GYN who wants to sell me Botox injections and liposuction.

31 thoughts on “Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?

  1. I had my wisdom teeth removed when I was seventeen, because they were causing crowding in my mouth, which was leading to pain and difficulty chewing and swallowing. Not everyone needs to have it done, but it’s fairly common to do so, especially in your teens and twenties.


  2. I had a similar experience – my wisdom teeth came out when I was 18, because my teeth are too big for my jaw, and I’d had orthodontics in my mouth since I was 5 to try to expand and fit all of my teeth. It failed rather spectacularly (17 years later and my teeth *still* aren’t straight), and when my wisdom teeth began coming in, it became extremely painful and difficult to function. Plus my teeth started crowding all over again. So mine came out. But I think its similar to the tonsil removal phenomenon (I still have my tonsils by the way) in most cases…


  3. I had the wisdom teeth on my right side removed, because they had started to bother me; tiny bits of food would get stuck on the lower right one, and I’d get frequent infections.

    I still have my left ones. My dentist sometimes gently urges me to get them removed, but I usually make a joke about how busy I am. 🙂


  4. I am 27 and I still have mine, and I haven’t been bugged because I haven’t been to the dentist since I was 20.

    I guess it is because when they start to grow in, they cause the other teeth to become crooked and push together or overlap and cause gum aches that goes on and off forever (so they say), so dentists usually try to get them asap after they have grown in enough to be pulled. I say if you want to keep them and they haven’t screwed up your mouth, that is your business. I will probably keep mine. They are grown in and my teeth and gums still look and feel fine.


  5. My mother is an ER nurse and also easily panicked. As soon as the dentist said that my wisdom teeth might cause problems, my mother had flashbacks to extreme cases she’s seen in the ER where an infected tooth leads to major problems in the rest of the body. So, boom, teeth were removed within 24 hours.


    1. Mine. 🙂 Apparently, this is a new trend among OB-GYNs who want to make more money. I was floored when I was first offered Botox injections at an OB-GYNs office. I wasn;t really sure where they wanted to inject Botox, you know.;-)


      1. If a doctor specializing in the pelvic region can do Botox on the face, perhaps my dentist can check me for testicular cancer, and my optometrist can do a prostate exam.


  6. I got my lower wisdom teeth removed both because they would have caused crowding in an already over-crowded mouth and because they were coming in at an angle and would have hit my back-most molars had they come in. My uppers will have to come out because of the size of my mouth as well, but because they’re coming in straight my dentist says to wait until they’re more fully developed.


  7. If your dentist wants to remove healthy teeth that are causing no problems for you, your jaw, or your other teeth, it is time to find a new dentist.


  8. I had mine removed for the same reason as others here — they told me that when they grew in they’d crowd my teeth (that had already been lined up forcibly and rather painfully by years and years of braces, which I now think were probably not needed, or at least not needed for as long as I had them), and they’d hurt, etc. So out they came. I used to keep them in a box (they were fully formed despite not having emerged from my gums yet) but I lost them in one of my many moves.

    And you know what? I was so traumatized by my childhood dental experiences that when I grew up and left home for years and years I avoided the dentist and didn’t take good care of my teeth and ended up having to have some molars pulled because they had rotted. I could really have used those wisdom teeth — which are supposed to come out when you’re older because tooth loss used to be normal and the wisdom teeth are supposed to replace the lost teeth. If they aren’t bothering you I say keep them. Tell your dentist firmly that if and when they start to hurt you’ll worry about removing them.


  9. Well, this is relevant to my interests – I’m having two wisdoms out this month. However, there is actually a reason for them to be removed – the lower one is stuck halfway through and has been for years. Periodically, it tries to erupt further which causes a little aching. However, it recently abcessed, so it needs to come out now. When they investigated to check for nerve placement before removing it, they discovered that the upper one (also partially through), although appearing fine and not painful, has actually died inside, speculatively because of impeded blood flow due to the awkward positioning. Regardless, that needs to come out, because as the surgeon put it, “It will abscess at some point, and better two teeth out under one anesthetic rather than two separate anesthetics.” Normally, if they aren’t causing problems (and being a bit wonky is not necessarily a problem, British dentists are far less obsessed with micro-measured straightness) or pain then they leave them well alone. As a case in point mine have been half through since I was 20, and we knew then that there wasn’t really room for them to fully erupt, but every dentist I have ever seen has been just fine with a leave it and see approach.


  10. I’ve never heard of removing healthy teeth. If someone was suggesting that I would definitely get more than one opinion as to why. I had my wisdom teeth out-all of them when I was 16/17. They were impacted and also I was running a fever. I woke up several times with a sore mouth and fever and was promptly taken to the dentist and they were removed. I’m not fond of going to the dentist, either, but the money spent is more than worth it to me.

    I don’t and wouldn’t mess around with one’s teeth. I feel strongly about this and would advise people to take care right away if they have any teeth problems. It is serious and people have died from medical issues resulting from teeth problems. Tooth care is linked to all kinds of health issues. One thing that my dentist complains about is that 20 somethings, according to them, only care about cosmetic appearances, but nothing else. I think that a rather sad commentary.

    I recall reading an article about a man (24 year-old father) who wound up in emergency care because of a tooth ache–an abscessed tooth. The doctor’s strongly advised him to take anti-biotics. He said he didn’t have the money for both a pain med and anti-biotics, so he chose the pain meds and died. This was unnecessary and needless. I do not understand why people would not take their doctor’s advice in such matters seriously, but some people don’t listen. It was very, very sad.


    1. And it was really stupid to take the pain meds instead of the antibiotics because in my experience once you start an antibiotic regimen the pain goes away in less than a day, or else it goes down to something that can be managed with over the counter pain pills. As a matter of fact, I’ve taken the prescription pain medication and in all cases it worked for maybe a day, but made me too woozy to do more than lie on the couch, and then stopped working except for the wooziness and nausea which made my pain even worse. Once when I had a toothache aspirin worked better than the pain meds.


      1. I have hard time understanding why people don’t practice self-care when it comes to their health. What kind of denial is this anyway? Teeth problems are serious. The article that I cited was about a man who went to a dentist and he was told that he needed the tooth pulled and he ignored their advice. He said he couldn’t afford it and didn’t have insurance. Then it got worse in two weeks and he wound up in the emergency room, after he face was swollen. He ignored their advice again and opted for the pain pill. He died, so his children are left without a father. In every article like this commenters are always seeking to blame the dentists, blame the doctor’s or blame society. What about personal responsibility? It always comes down to blaming others. As far as I’m concerned it was a tragedy that didn’t need to happen.

        I could include myself as a person who didn’t go to the dentist while I was in college either, because I couldn’t afford it. I was living in poverty to go to school. I didn’t qualify for scholarships, government aid, etc. I was okay, but I practice good self-care. I meet people with stories that they never go to the dentist, but they spend their money on all kinds of things–it is their choice and decision to do that, but they ought not to blame others for the decisions that they make.


  11. I got mine taken out when I was a teen as well- they were sideways inside of my jaw, so if they ever did decide to grow in, I would have teeth pointing in towards my tongue and other severe problems. So yeah, those got yanked. They were even still inside the jawbone, so they had to cut in to the bone to get at them… luckily I was quick healer, and swelling was gone 24 hours later. And I did not mind the extra milk shakes I got for the rest of the week 😉

    But I agree with the above, yours probably don’t need to get pulled unless your dentist has reasons to believe they’ll get infected.


  12. Sometimes they grow in funky and fuck up your jaw but other times the dentist is just collecting fuel for the tooth-powered engines of the ADA’s secret army of Crest-sponsored cyborg tanks. It’s all part of the 2012 world apocalypse thing.


  13. I thought that people in their late teens typically had them taken out so they wouldn’t screw up the straightening done by braces. At least, that’s what I was told. My teeth would get crooked all over again if wisdom teeth came and room had to be made for them. Before I had braces, my teeth already barely fit in my mouth. I even had some sideways teeth. Now after being straightened they are very close together. Your dentist’s recommendation sounds odd to me.


  14. I assume wisdom teeth are what you call “muelas del juicio” in spanish, right? Here a lot of people removes them, but just because it’s common that they cause trouble so when the trouble comes, they remove them. I had one removed before it came out because it was going to literally ruin my mouth and I had enormous pains, so the doctor put it away. But none just removes them as “prevention”. It seems pretty stupid. Like if we all had to go through an apendice’s* extirpation just because you may need it to be extirpoed in the fuure.

    Anyway, something very like this happens to me with my amigdalas*.

    *don’t know whether the word is the same in english or not, sorry anyway


  15. Mine grew in fairly painlessly and didn’t crowd my teeth. No one’s ever suggested taking them out, but they ache every time the weather changes. That alone, though, is not worth the trauma of taking them out.

    My son’s wisdom teeth are also growing in, and seem not to be a problem at this point (he is in the Air Force and from what I understand, most of his peers are required to have them taken out if they are going overseas — I guess they are being proactive about potential problems, but they wound up leaving his in after a dental consult).

    My daughter’s were impacted and causing problems, but she had a miserable week after they were taken out and then had dry socket, which is terribly painful.

    Unless your dentist can present you with a problem that your wisdom teeth are causing, there’s no reason to have them out. I don’t understand your OB/GYN offering you Botox or liposuction, either; those are extra services which not everyone will want. A simple sign in the waiting or exam room stating that it’s available is sufficient. Offering to your face is suggesting that you “need” those services, which is just not ethical, to my mind. It’s surgery (or a drug, in the case of Botox), and it’s not required to keep you healthy. If that happened to me, I would probably not go back to that physician.


  16. I think it’s tough to generalize about dentists. The handful of dentists that I have been to in my life have tended toward a lasse faire attitude (beyond good regular hygiene and the treatment of actual problems, like cavities). One told me that if my wisdom teeth weren’t a problem there was no reason to remove them, but he also said that if any became decayed, his preference was to remove them rather than fill any cavities. When this did happen, he was able to quickly and relatively easily remove them, as none of them had any real roots. These extractions were, in fact, cheaper, and, in my opinion, less painful than having them filled.

    That said, some family members have been to more ‘proactive’ dentists who were always urging them to have expensive procedures done which were not immediately necessary, or chiefly cosmetic.


    1. I’ve decided to look for a new dentist after my current one suggested that we create “a Hollywood smile” for me by doing something called “veneers.” This really scared me. I had to fill out a questionnaire rating the quality of my smile. I always thought that the quality of one’s smile had to do with how sincere it was and how it lighted up one’s face. I guess I was too naive and a smile has to do more with veneers or whatever.


      1. Yeah, there are definitely dentists who are more interested in cosmetic dentistry, like teeth whitening, veneers or other random stuff that has nothing to do with the health or function of your teeth and everything to do with how they look.

        I go to a dentist who describes his practice as “family and cosmetic dentistry,” and his decision has been to leave my wisdom teeth alone. My mom, trying to find a dentist for my dad to go to (he hadn’t been to the dentist for thirty years), looked mostly for the ones whose advertisements, websites etc. didn’t go on and on about “the perfect smile”, because she thought they’d be more interested in leaving healthy teeth alone.


        1. “My mom, trying to find a dentist for my dad to go to (he hadn’t been to the dentist for thirty years), looked mostly for the ones whose advertisements, websites etc. didn’t go on and on about “the perfect smile”, because she thought they’d be more interested in leaving healthy teeth alone.”

          – Ah, this is a good suggestion! I will concentrate on this when I look for the new dentist.


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