The Latest Wisdom About Wisdom Teeth? Keep Them In


Do you or your child really need to have your wisdom teeth pulled?

While most young people routinely have the procedure performed out of concerns about developing various complications — tooth decay, gum infections, cysts, an abscess — there isn’t actually a lot of scientific evidence for having your wisdom teeth removed, the New York Times finds. Having all four teeth removed can cost several thousand dollars, though many insurance companies cover the full cost of the oral surgery.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons‘ website says that “between 25 percent and almost 70 percent” of the time, “asymptomatic wisdom teeth” are “routinely extracted.” That is, even when people have no pain or discomfort with their wisdom teeth, they still have them extracted in a procedure that is frankly no fun. The surgery carries the risk of possible nerve damage, complications from anesthesia, loss of the sense of taste and, in rare cases, death.

Oral surgeons contend that you can face greater risks if you don’t have surgery to remove wisdom teeth, which can become partly grown in or impacted below the gums:

“It’s hard to get a percentage, but probably 75 to 80 percent of people do not meet the criteria of being able to successfully maintain their wisdom teeth,” said Dr. Louis K. Rafetto of Wilmington, Del., who headed the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons’ task force on wisdom teeth.

Another expert, Dr. Raymond P. White Jr., a professor of surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, said that roughly 60 to 70 percent of patients with wisdom teeth will eventually have trouble with them, but he acknowledged that data is limited. “We’re making decisions based on the best data we have,” he said.

But while the association says that “80 percent of young adults who retained previously healthy wisdom teeth developed problems within seven years, and that retained wisdom teeth are extracted up to 70 percent of the time,” it did not have evidence to back up those figures. The New York Times further points out that there does not appear to be a single randomized clinical trial — studies that are considered the “gold standard for scientific proof” — for prophylactic wisdom teeth removal versus keeping wisdom teeth. Britain’s National Health Service stopped paying for the surgery after the Center for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York concluded that there was no solid scientific evidence to support it. A 2005 review in the Cochrane Collaboration cited “reliable evidence” that removing wisdom teeth does not help with crowding of front teeth.

I still remember having my wisdom teeth removed the summer after I graduated from college. After wearing braces and retainers, finding myself back in the orthodontist’s chair was no big deal. But after the surgery, I came down with a sapping, flu-like illness and had to be semi-carried by my mother to see a doctor. I recovered, and, as it was August, I didn’t miss anything while lying around feeling deathly ill. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear that a procedure often thought to be a rite of passage for young Americans may not actually be necessary.

Is it better to err on the side of caution and have your wisdom teeth removed? Or has prophylactic wisdom teeth removal become simply routine, so that it is time to get a better understanding of how necessary the procedure may be?


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Photo by schoschie


Caitlin L
Caitlin L20 days ago


Jan S
Jan Sabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

Lesa D
Past Member 11 months ago

oops! too late...

thank you Kristina...

New G.
W. C7 years ago

Interesting article and comments, thank you.

Monica Shanklin
Monica Shanklin7 years ago

I had braces, as did my son and daughter, because of very crowded teeth. I looked like Vampira and my son was called Jaws. We all ended up having our wisdom teeth pulled, all 4 at once, because if they were allowed to come down they would have undone all of the expensive work we had done to straighten them. I used to laugh with my hand over my mouth and my son had to wear head gear to pull his teeth back and the 2 front buck teeth down. In our case it was necessary. There was no room for them and probably genetic. We never regretted it.

Claire M.
Claire M7 years ago

Unless you have the better half of heath insurance [ yes just cause you have insurance doesn't mean they pay for a everything], your wisdom teeth are likely going to stay in your head whether its good for you or not. I have upper ones and my upper teeth are crowded and , but dental surgery as they call it to remove the them even though they may be influencing my tinnitus is apparently a luxury. They are not going to tell you this , they will just act like its not a problem that they are there, that and they wont tell you that your amalgam fillings contain and may be leaking mercury gas.

june v.
june van Riel7 years ago

I have had one pulled out, after it broke through halfway and stayed that way for 5 years. The other three are causing no pain, so they will not be removed, unless off course in the future they do. I believe there is no need to tamper with them unless there is a reason too.

Troy Schreiber
Troy S7 years ago

I never had my wisdom teeth removed and have no plans to do so.

I recently saw the dentist for the first time in over 10 years. I hadn't been to one since I was at least in middle school. He was amazed by the excellent condition of my teeth and even remarked, "Look at those teeth!"

Carrianne F.

My Wisdom teeth were impacted and causing me excruciating pain. My teeth had always been straight, and my Dentist said that I would never need braces or a retainer [as the rest of my family had needed] but as soon as my Wisdom teeth started growing in...sideways, they began to push my teeth together. So now my two front teeth overlap slightly, and although no one says they can see it, I can see, I can feel it. I just wished I had them taken out earlier. Also: my procedure was not "a terrible thing" I recovered quickly, and was only taking tylenol as a pain killer. I had practically no swelling, and only the tiniest bruise on my one cheek. I sometimes think people play these things up to much, because yes, you do OCCASSIONALLY have the bad reaction, but they explain that to you and make sure you are 100% aware, and give YOU the option to have it done.

Alex Hill
Alex Hill7 years ago

Getting wisdom teeth was something I always looked forwards to. So far I only have one and there's no way I'm letting a dentist rip it out for no good reason.