Do I Need My Wisdom Teeth Out?


"My Dentist recommended extracting my wisdom teeth, but they are not hurting me. Do I really need to have my wisdom teeth removed?"

We hear the above question fairly often. I hope the following information will be useful to you in helping decide what to do with your wisdom teeth.

Your wisdom teeth do not need to be removed if they are:

  • Healthy
  • Fully erupted (fully grown in)
  • Positioned properly to bite with the opposing teeth
  • Positioned so that all surfaces can be cleaned sufficiently daily
Healthy wisdom teeth (*) positioned aesthetically and functionally. 

Healthy wisdom teeth (*) positioned aesthetically and functionally. 

For the wisdom teeth to erupt and align properly there must be sufficient room in the back of the jaw. It is very rare to see someone with all 32 teeth in the mouth. The above images show someone with wisdom teeth that are optimally aligned and functional. 

Examples of Wisdom Teeth Problems

Sometimes wisdom teeth only partially emerge through the gums. Other times, they are completely hidden. Wisdom teeth that fail to erupt properly become impacted, or trapped, in the jaw bone. 

The partially impacted wisdom teeth create a passageway for food and bacteria, which can cause

  • Decay of the wisdom teeth
  • Pain and infection of the gums around the wisdom teeth
  • Damage to adjacent teeth
Impacted wisdom tooth 

Impacted wisdom tooth 

Wisdom tooth causing damage to the neighboring tooth. 

Wisdom tooth causing damage to the neighboring tooth. 

According to the American Dental Association, wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you experience changes in your mouth, such as:

  • Pain
  • Repeated infection of gums surrounding the lower last tooth
  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Extensive tooth decay

Wisdom teeth can cause damage long before your experience symptoms. The damage can be irreversible, as shown in the image above. The best way of prevention is to take a panoramic x-ray to check for the growth and orientation of the wisdom teeth. If the wisdom teeth are positioned in a problematic way, your dentist may recommend removing them before they start to cause damage to the surrounding tissue.

The decision to remove wisdom teeth can be complex. Talk to your dentist about the position and the health of your wisdom teeth and what's best for your situation.