Wisdom Teeth: What Every Parent Should Know

smiling teenagers with wisdom teeth


From the first baby tooth to braces and beyond, you want your children to have every oral health advantage in life. Surprisingly, many parents don’t know a whole lot about wisdom teeth, and when or why they should be extracted. At Bowmanville Dental, we want all our patients to make informed decisions for their families, so here are the essential facts every parent should know about wisdom teeth.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last four adult teeth to come in, and they usually begin to erupt between the ages of 17 and 24. They are positioned at the very back of the mouth, and come in on the top and bottom. Wisdom teeth begin forming in the mouth as early as age 8, however, so early removal may be recommended in some cases. For example, it may be better for a child’s orthodontic treatment plan to have wisdom teeth removed before they are even fully formed.

An interesting fact about wisdom teeth is that with the modern human diet, wisdom teeth aren’t necessary for proper dentition any more. They are a biological remnant of a time when humans consumed far more unprocessed grains than we do now. Some people do not even develop wisdom teeth. In fact, it is estimated that 10-25 percent of North Americans with European ancestry do not develop at least one of their wisdom teeth. In some native populations, this percentage is as high as 45 percent.

Why Wisdom Teeth are Extracted

The problem with wisdom teeth is that they often lead to problems. For example, they may become impacted, which means they cannot erupt due to their placement in relation to other teeth and the jaw bone. This can lead to painful symptoms, and can disrupt the harmony of your child’s tooth alignment.

Wisdom teeth should be monitored as they are developing in the jaw, with regular dental x-rays during routine dental visits throughout the teenage years. This lets our dentists spot potential problems early and monitor whether your child may need to have them removed in the future.

Should All Wisdom Teeth be Removed?

If your teen seems to have room in his or her jaw for the wisdom teeth to come in without causing problems, and if they are positioned well—there may be no need to have the them extracted.

However, we see many adult patients who wind up having wisdom teeth extracted later in life due to extensive decay. The problem is that molars in general are hard to keep clean, due to their rear position in the mouth and the deep ridges needed for grinding food. Add any element of crowding or misalignment and this situation becomes far worse. Elective wisdom teeth extraction has become fairly common for this reason. Many parents feel that if the teeth are not needed for chewing, removing them is a good way to make sure they never cause any problems for their child in the future.

What to Expect from Us

If we suggest your child should have the wisdom teeth extracted, we will always explain the reasons for this recommendation. Extractions are usually performed between the ages of 17 and 24, and part of our recommendations will include the best time for extraction, based on the individual growth rate and position of your child’s wisdom teeth. At Bowmanville dental, we routinely perform wisdom teeth extractions in our office under conscious sedation, to make sure your child will be comfortable during the procedure.

Parent Take-Aways

In summary, the important points you want to remember about wisdom teeth are (1) routine dental visits throughout the teenaged years will help us monitor wisdom teeth development, and (2) if removal is recommended, it can usually be performed by around age 17.

If your child is approaching this age group, ask one of our dentists whether extraction is recommended for your child. We want every young adult to have healthy and well aligned teeth that will last them a lifetime. In many cases, extracting the wisdom teeth allows for stronger, healthier and better positioned teeth.

Call our Bowmanville, ON dental practice at 905-697-9799 or contact us online to make an appointment with one of our doctors.