Wisdom Teeth and Braces

We at Sawgrass Orthodontics hear many common concerns from our patients when it comes to braces. Some of the most frequently asked questions are:

“How long do I have to wear braces?”

“Will they hurt?”

“Are there certain foods I can’t eat?”

One of the less common, but incredibly smart questions we get centers around wisdom teeth and braces, “If my wisdom teeth come in, will that upset my new, straight smile?”

Hold On…Wisdom teeth?

When braces come to mind, wisdom teeth may not be the first thing you think about, but patients ask us about them pretty frequently, and for a good reason.

When patients are completing their orthodontic treatment, they may notice their wisdom teeth starting to erupt. Naturally, they wonder if these new teeth are going to undo all the magnificent work their braces just did!

How worried should a patient be? Can newly straightened teeth be moved by pressure from wisdom teeth?

Let’s see how, if at all, wisdom teeth can affect orthodontic treatment.

Will my newly straightened smile be disturbed by wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth commonly begin erupting in the late teen years, between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes it does happen later. The arrival of these teeth is often marked by some achiness in the mouth and potentially, some slight shifting of the teeth.

So, are wisdom teeth triggering your newly straightened teeth to “get shifty?”

Most research says that wisdom teeth don’t cause teeth to shift because they lack the pressure to do so.

But…if our smile is shifting in our late teens and early twenties, and wisdom teeth aren’t to blame, what’s going on?

It’s an unavoidable, inescapable reason: we age.

The older we get, the more knowledge and experience we gain, but our bodies, teeth included, start exhibiting a little of the wear-and-tear we put on it. As natural drifting occurs, teeth may start to overlap, which will push them forward slightly. When these teeth overlap, the upper teeth can push the lower teeth in closer to the tongue. Adults can also experience a minimal amount of jaw growth which can, in turn, force the teeth into less desirable positions.

However, there is something you can do to keep teeth straight as time marches on, and that’s consistently wear a retainer. It is the best way to defend against drifting and overlap and will keep your smile looking amazing as the years come and go.

Get wise about wisdom teeth!

So, now that you don’t have to fear wisdom teeth and what they can do to your newly straightened smile let’s take a beat to talk about the ways they affect your overall oral health.

Once your wisdom teeth start popping through, also called erupting, you may notice one or two of the following things happen:

  • If your wisdom teeth only somewhat emerge, a flap of skin can form. This will incompletely cover the wisdom teeth and has a troublesome habit of catching food. This can lead to decay and gum infections.
  • Wisdom teeth can become impacted if there isn’t enough room in the mouth for them to fully erupt. Because of the impaction, the teeth get stuck in the jaw and gums and can cause serious issues.
  • If wisdom teeth become impacted, painful cysts can form, sometimes leading to infection and decay of the neighboring tooth roots.
  • If wisdom teeth come in at a weird angle, they can rub up against the inside of your cheek which can be irritating and painful.

Maximum capacity: 32 teeth

For most patients, the most prominent problem concerning wisdom teeth is not having enough room for them. Our mouths are meant to hold 32 teeth and no more. If space isn’t an issue for you, you still have to be sure you are correctly brushing and flossing them as they can be difficult to reach. One of the leading causes of oral decay and gum disease in the back of the mouth is due to improper brushing and flossing, so be sure to give it your all!

An offense is your best defense: The Retainer

The single best way to avoid possible issues with wisdom teeth is to wear your retainer as directed by your orthodontist and to schedule an appointment at the first sign of your wisdom teeth coming in. Once your orthodontic treatment is done, you should still schedule regular visits with us or your dentist to ensure optimal oral health.

In summary…

Long before your wisdom teeth arrive, your orthodontist can actually diagnose if you will have issues with overcrowding. As soon as they are close enough to the surface, they can be extracted to avoid possible issues.

Here’s a fun fact — did you know that while you’re wearing braces, your wisdom teeth can be removed?

This is great news because if they do come in, you don’t have to worry how they will affect your orthodontic treatment. They can be removed, and you continue your treatment without interruption!

Also, not everyone needs to remove their wisdom teeth. If they aren’t causing you any grief, there’s no need to bother with removing me. As they say, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

If there was one thing we really want you to take away from this, it’s that it’s imperative once your braces are off that you wear your retainer every night (or as recommended by your orthodontist). It keeps teeth straight, and it also serves as an early warning device since it will get tighter if teeth are moving. If that happens,schedule a visit to come in and see us. We will take a look around and see if your wisdom teeth are coming in and if so, what we need to do about them. Get in touch with us here or give us a call at 954.514.2111.

- Dr. Langford

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