Before I place braces on any patient, I take a panoramic x-ray to assess the teeth and jaws. And almost always, I discover wisdom teeth developing beneath the gums, behind the other molars. When I tell patients that they have wisdom teeth, I often see a look of dismay on their parents’ faces. Perhaps they remember having their own wisdom teeth removed – or more likely they remember being swollen and eating mush for 3 days. They assume that because their children have wisdom teeth, they will need to get them removed. And this isn’t always true!
In the old days, wisdom teeth were a lot like tonsils – doctors removed them because they were there. But the thinking has changed about wisdom teeth over the past few decades, just as it has for tonsils. These days, we only recommend removing wisdom teeth if we see a problem associated with them or if we believe a problem is imminent. Such problems include infections of the teeth or gums, or damage to the adjacent molars.
“But won’t my wisdom teeth push my other teeth crooked?” you may ask.
And the answer is that they are unlikely to do so, because when braces are finished every patient gets a set of retainers to keep the teeth straight. As long as you are wearing your retainers, your teeth should remain straight, regardless of your wisdom teeth. Of course, if you aren’t wearing your retainer, your teeth may go crooked with or without the influence of your wisdom teeth.
So, the fact that your child has wisdom teeth developing does not necessarily mean that those teeth will need to be pulled, nor does it mean that the teeth will go crooked again unless you have them removed. Rather, the best thing to do is to see your orthodontist for yearly retainer checks, and have a panoramic x-ray done at age 16. Hopefully the x-ray will show healthy teeth developing normally, and extractions won’t be necessary. And if it turns out that the wisdom teeth have to be removed don’t worry…..they may remove the teeth, but your child can keep the wisdom ☺