Every orthodontic journey is a learning process, and getting braces is no exception. Along the way, you’ll gain quite a bit of knowledge about orthodontics. You’ll also grow more familiar with the amazing things your teeth are capable of, including how your braces shift and move them.  As much as you’ll learn about straightening your smile and how to maintain it, there’s one related subject you might find yourself missing some solid information on: the wisdom teeth! Because these late-comers aren’t an especially common topic of conversation, you may be unaware of the part wisdom teeth play in your overall oral health. Here at Bluebird Orthodontics, it’s not unusual to have patients (or parents!) wonder if these molars could have a negative effect on smiles that have undergone orthodontic treatment.Keep reading below to learn more about the wisdom teeth and what their eruption can mean for braces treatment!

What are wisdom teeth? What are they for?

As it turns out, not much! However, once upon a time, our ancestors needed large, powerful jaws in order to chew and digest a diet that was rich in coarse foods like roots, nuts, and meats. As that diet began to evolve and become more varied, our jaws grew smaller in response. This has resulted in many people not having enough room for their wisdom teeth to fit in comfortably anymore. This certainly isn’t the case for everyone. For some, the wisdom teeth will come through in proper alignment with little more than slight tenderness, requiring no further action. But our wisdom teeth grow in stages, often over a number of years, giving them multiple opportunities to cause discomfort and pain before they fully erupt. To avoid any unnecessary suffering, removal of the wisdom teeth may sometimes be suggested.

Will your wisdom teeth need to be removed?

This will depend on a number of factors. If there’s not enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to come through properly, it can put pressure on the adjacent teeth, causing some pressure and pain. Another issue that can arise is the wisdom teeth coming in sideways, as they can become jammed behind the last tooth in the mouth. This is what we refer to as impaction, and it can lead to painful, swollen gums. Partially erupted teeth are also difficult to clean thoroughly, which can increase your risk for infection, potentially causing damage to the healthy molars beside them as well. 

An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Frank or your general dentist will be able to tell how your wisdom teeth are coming in by taking an x-ray of your mouth. Based on the results of that x-ray, along with any difficulties your wisdom teeth are causing, you may be a candidate for wisdom tooth removal. In general, removal will only be recommended if they are causing pain, pressure, or other issues in the mouth.

Can wisdom teeth undo your straightened smile?

In your late teens and into early twenties, it’s common to see a slight shifting of the teeth begin. This also happens to be the same time frame in which most people’s wisdom teeth begin erupting. The shifting you may see is called relapse, and although it’s a natural process, many people blame wisdom teethbecause of the similar timing.

To see if there was anything behind this theory, the University of Iowa did a study which involved placing sensors between the teeth to compare the amount of pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth present. Ultimately, they found that there was no difference between the two. Our wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure on the surrounding teeth to cause them to move. So if wisdom teeth aren’t the culprit, what is? The answer is surprisingly simple: we get older. As we age, our teeth begin to drift naturally, as well as showing signs of general wear and tear. This can cause our teeth to overlap and move slightly forward, with the upper teeth pressing the lower teeth in towards the tongue. Residual jaw growth can also force the teeth into undesirable positions.

As a Bluebird Orthodontics patient, you’ve likely heard us talk often about how important it is to wear a retainer once your braces come off. This natural relapsing is exactly why we’re such sticklers about it. When you wear your retainer as directed by Dr. Frank, you’ll be giving your teeth the best chance at a lifetime of straight smiles once your treatment is complete!

Be wise & trust your smile to Bluebird Orthodontics

At Bluebird Orthodonticsour talented team works together to create a rewarding, stress-free, and positive orthodontic experience. Your comfort, care, and smile are of the utmost importance to us, and you can count on us to create a beautifully straight smile that will last a lifetime.

If your wisdom teeth happen to start erupting during the course of your orthodontic treatment, there’s no need to fear delaying or adding extra time to the process. You should be able to continue easily and without interruption. While it’s very unlikely that your wisdom teeth will affect the straighter smile you’ve achieved with braces, every patient and every case is different. If you’ve been worried about how your own wisdom teeth are erupting, you canschedule an appointment with your general dentist to discuss the way they’re growing in, then get in touch with us so we can address any questions and concerns you still have. We’ll be happy to set your mind at ease!