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What You Should Know About Wisdom Teeth and Braces

By September 24, 2019September 18th, 2023Orthodontics
Smiling girl in the autumn

Most people get their permanent second molars between the ages of 11 and 13. By the time these teeth come in, I’m able to see exactly what issues a patient may be facing with their smile, including crowding, spacing or an overbite. This is one of the reasons why it’s so common for teens to start orthodontic treatment around this time.

Yet, once a teenager is done with braces or Invisalign, they might have another milestone on the horizon: their third molars, or their wisdom teeth. If a person’s wisdom teeth do erupt (not everyone’s do), they typically make an entrance between the ages of 17 and 21. Of course, after investing in orthodontic treatment, you don’t want these final pearly whites to disrupt your results, which is why patients often ask, “Should you remove wisdom teeth before braces?” The answer I give my Monroe, Mill Creek and Bothell braces patients is, no, not usually. I’ll cover why that’s the case and when it might be recommended to have your wisdom teeth taken out. 

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Like I said, wisdom teeth are your third molars that typically erupt in your late teen or early adult years. Since it’s assumed we’re older and wiser by the time they come in, they were coined wisdom teeth. While, if they’re healthy, they could help with chewing, they’re not a necessity. In fact, not everyone even gets all four wisdom teeth since they are the most commonly missing teeth. When people do get them, it is possible for them to be perfectly fine. However, more commonly, the wisdom teeth are crooked, get stuck underneath the bone (impacted) or only erupt partially. When these issues occur, it can lead to pain, infection or tooth decay.

Wisdom Teeth and Braces or Invisalign Teen

Will wisdom teeth affect braces or your final results? For years, it was thought that when the wisdom teeth came in, they could exert pressure on the surrounding teeth and cause crowding or, in some cases, a relapse after orthodontic treatment. Why? Well, in early adulthood, the teeth do tend to shift and there can be changes in the bite, which coincides with the wisdom teeth erupting. This caused patients to worry and think it was necessary to remove wisdom teeth before braces. More recent research has shown that the wisdom teeth don’t exert enough force to shift nearby teeth and extracting wisdom teeth did not prevent incisor crowding or relieve interdental pressure. The changes in our smile that occur in the late teens are actually just due to age. Teeth will often move forward a bit and the jaw can have one final growth spurt. This is why I recommend that my patients wear their retainer after orthodontic treatment! It’s the only way to prevent a relapse and maintain your results.

Now, back to braces and wisdom teeth. If every patient had their wisdom teeth removed before braces or Invisalign Teen, then they’d have to wait until they were much older to start treatment since the wisdom teeth don’t come in until ages 17-21. Of course, braces or Invisalign for adults can be super effective. However, there are benefits to beginning treatment when you’re a teenager. Since you’re still growing and have a high metabolism, I can more efficiently move the teeth and jaw into their proper places. Putting off orthodontic care solely because you’re worried about getting wisdom teeth after braces will wreak havoc on your smile, would likely be a mistake. Your best bet is to have an orthodontic evaluation, kick-off treatment when your orthodontist recommends it and then wear your retainer, whether you’re still waiting on wisdom teeth or not.

Do I Need to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

It’s not uncommon for people to have their wisdom teeth removed before they erupt, even if there aren’t any complications. It was thought that this would be helpful for a person’s oral health in the future. Yet, there is a debate surrounding prophylactic extraction of the wisdom teeth. Now, many dentists will suggest keeping your wisdom teeth in place if they’re not causing any issues. Your general dentist will monitor your wisdom teeth and, if necessary, refer you to an oral surgeon for extraction. They may recommend you have them removed if:

  • There is clearly no room for them to erupt
  • The soft tissue in the area gets infected or swollen
  • You’re in pain
  • They’re difficult for you to keep clean and you get cavities or gum disease
  • The impacted teeth are causing sinus pain or headaches
  • You develop benign tumors or cysts in the jaw

So, what if these issues crop up during your treatment? Can you get wisdom teeth removed while you have braces? Yes, you can. If, after a thorough evaluation, it’s decided that extracting your wisdom teeth is the best course of action, I would coordinate with your dentist and oral surgeon. Your wisdom teeth can be removed without compromising your orthodontic treatment.

Have more questions about wisdom teeth and braces? Or, just ready to get a healthy, beautiful smile? Schedule a free consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics today!

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