Wisdom teeth are pesky, vestigial teeth that seem to do nothing but make dentists money. They don’t grow right, there is not enough room for them and thus cause damage to adjacent teeth, and if they are impacted they may even push other teeth in the mouth together, making orthodontic treatment necessary, and frequently stay beneath the gum line, causing all sorts of periodontal worries and periodontitis. And when they do erupt properly, they frequently become infected and have to be extracted anyway, as they are very difficult to reach because of their position all the way in the back of the mouth. So why not just extract them the moment they erupt?
The truth is, if a dental x-ray shows that your wisdom teeth are growing in sideways or are impacted, the dentist will offer an extraction, as it makes no sense- and in certain circumstances can even be dangerous to the rest of your teeth- to leave them in. But if at all possible, dentists will try and avoid tooth extractions, as they are not good for the rest of your teeth. The teeth work together as one system, and what condition one tooth is in affects all of the rest of the teeth, too. When a tooth goes missing, the alveolus- the bone ridge underneath the gums that the adult teeth are anchored into- starts to disintegrate, which weakens the adjacent teeth, and eventually contributes to premature tooth loss. Extractions can also harm the dental nerve and the soft tissues in your mouth, and the extraction site can become infected easily.
The function of wisdom teeth
Although wisdom teeth are by far the most likely to be irregular and unable to perform their function and get infected, this does not mean that they do not have a function. They are a part of your chewing mechanism, and by keeping them you are extending the chewing surface, grinding the food up better, and making it easier to digest and also relieving the molars of some of the wear and tear they have to exert, lengthening the lifespan of all of your teeth. This is why if a wisdom tooth has a chance of properly erupting, and of not harming the other teeth, dentists will opt to keep them, even if they may need a filling every now and then, as a wisdom tooth can be useful.
When to extract
Sometimes it is more worth it to extract then to leave wisdom teeth in. Wisdom teeth are very difficult to clean, and are more frequently extracted than other teeth. If the tooth has a recurring need of fillings, it may be easier to pull the tooth. If a root canal is needed, it may be easier and cheaper to extract, as wisdom teeth frequently have irregular roots that are difficult to deal with. If the tooth is partially erupted and is responsible for gum infections, or if the tooth itself should become infected, it will definitely be extracted.