How long can you leave your wisdom teeth in and what are the consequences?

There’s no fixed age that determines when to remove wisdom teeth, but leaving them in too long can lead to serious problems down the road.

For a good chunk of the younger population, having your wisdom teeth removed is almost like a rite of passage. But this procedure typically comes more from good dental practices rather than a fixed age stating the precise time to extract wisdom teeth. In fact, a small percentage of people never have to undergo this procedure.

Most people, though, have their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens or early 20s for one of two reasons. Either the teeth have already become painful or there's a high likelihood they will eventually. The former will be apparent immediately, while you'll need to rely on the expertise of a dentist for the latter.

But this raises the questions of how long you can go before having your wisdom teeth removed, and what will happen if you leave them in. As with any question that deals with the complexity of the human body, there are several ways to address this.

The right time for wisdom teeth removal

The exact age at which this might occur varies from one person to the next, so it's tough to provide a definitive answer on how long you can go without having your wisdom teeth removed. But clearly no one wants to leave them in long enough to cause pain or worse, so it's always a good idea to check with a dentist around the ages of 18 to 22.

In practice though, a dentist can perform an x-ray to see if your wisdom teeth have one-third root formation. Whatever age this occurs makes it a good time for an extraction. The older you get, the greater the chance for complications, as the wisdom teeth will have more time to take root. Once the teeth grow to around two-thirds root formation, it makes them harder to remove and increases the risk of nerve injury.

Ideally, regular dental visits will allow your dentist to know early on whether you're a candidate for wisdom teeth removal and the best time to extract them. However, whether due to skipping dental care or due to an inadvertent oversight, this isn't always the case.

Potential Consequences of not removing wisdom teeth

Some people choose to wait until they experience discomfort or pain before deciding to have their wisdom teeth removed. As mentioned, it's not uncommon for wisdom teeth to grow in perfectly normal or only need to have one wisdom tooth removed.

This, unfortunately, is not the case for most people who will need to have them removed or face some painful consequences. If you're not sure about extraction and don't like going to the dentist, you should still be aware of what may potentially happen to your teeth, gums, and mouth.

If left unchecked, unremoved wisdom teeth could potentially expose you to repeated infection around your lower back teeth, or worse. Absent a dentist's recommendation, the onset of pain will typically be the main indicator there's a problem with your wisdom teeth, which might be caused by one of the following ailments.

Overcrowding

When a person's third molars begin growing in, they pop up in a precarious spot between the second molars and jaw where there's often little to no room for them. This is especially true if you have a smaller jaw and mouth.

Because of a lack of space, the eruption of wisdom teeth can cause overcrowding, forcing your other teeth to shift or even overlap with one another. This leads to the inability to brush and floss properly, as well as a significant amount of pain.

If this happens after you've had to wear braces or have had other orthodontic procedures, it could revert your teeth back to how they were originally. In some cases, overcrowding caused by wisdom teeth might require another trip to the orthodontist to realign several or even all of your teeth.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth that fail to erupt from the gum line end up trapped below it, becoming impacted. This creates a gap between the gum line and the teeth. If this occurs, not only is it quite painful, but it can also cause abscesses, infections, cavities, or even gum disease.

Tooth Decay

Even if you're part of the small minority of people whose wisdom teeth grow in correctly, there may still be other problems in the future. Due to the location of wisdom teeth in the far back of your mouth, they're much tougher to clean properly. This difficulty makes some people forego brushing and flossing such a hard-to-reach spot, which leads to the growth of bacteria. Flourishing bacteria causes tartar, plaque, and, if left untreated, tooth decay.

Thankfully, we've come a long way in wisdom tooth removal. Today, a modern dental office with a state-of-the-art practice can make this process a breeze. Contact the dental experts at City Dentists to learn more.