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Whether is it before braces or after braces, I am often asked about wisdom teeth.  Wisdom teeth, which are sometimes called “third molars”, usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25, that is if they can erupt.  Some people have wisdom teeth that erupt without any problems; however, in many cases, there is not enough room for these teeth to erupt. In this case, they are referred to as “impacted” wisdom teeth.

Most people have four wisdom teeth, but it is not uncommon to have only two or in some cases none. A Panorex X-ray, which is taken before and after orthodontic treatment, will reveal the number of developing wisdom teeth (I have seen as many as eight!).

For most people, there are quite a few problems that can occur with wisdom teeth. These include difficulty in accessibility for cleaning, high susceptibility for decay, chronic or recurring gum infections, damage to the teeth immediately ahead of wisdom teeth, and interference with normal bite or jaw movements.

I often get asked if erupting wisdom teeth will cause the other teeth to become crowded after the braces are removed.  No one knows for sure. There is still some disagreement within the dental profession.  However, I believe for most people the answer is “no”.  By far the greatest cause of relapse after teeth are straight is the failure to wear retainers.  Retainer wear is a lifetime commitment.

While wisdom teeth that are not causing problems and are not likely to be a future problem can be retained, most people are well served to have their wisdom teeth removed.  Regular check-ups by your family dentist will allow them to give a recommendation on the best time for removal if necessary.