Wisdom Teeth and Braces

Wisdom teeth aren’t really something you tend to associate with the world of orthodontic treatment, so it may surprise you to know that it’s actually a topic that comes up pretty regularly here at Dudley Smiles! When patients have successfully completed or are getting close to completing their treatment, finding a wisdom tooth trying to poke through can cause a moment of panic — is this going to move the teeth they’ve just straightened out, and ruin the results they’ve worked so hard for?


Since this is a concern that parents bring up with us as often as patients do, let’s take a look at if and how wisdom teeth can impact braces treatment.  

Can wisdom teeth impact a newly straightened smile?

The short answer is: no, not really. Research conducted at the University of Iowa found that wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure on the teeth in front of them to cause them to shift. Their research involved placing sensors between the teeth to compare the pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth. There was no difference.


We do know, however, that around the same time the wisdom teeth typically make an appearance (about 17-21 years old), many patients will see a relapse, or slight shifting of their teeth, as well. Is this a coincidence, or are erupting wisdom teeth to blame? If wisdom teeth aren’t a key factor in our teeth shifting in our late teens and early adulthood, what is?


Portrait Of Smiling Woman Standing Outdoors Against White WallThe biggest reason is surprisingly simple: we get older!


As we age, our teeth will naturally begin to show some wear and tear. There’s even a term that addresses this – natural drifting. Our teeth may begin overlapping, moving them slightly forward. As they overlap, the upper teeth can press the lower teeth in towards the tongue. Within this same age range, there’s also a bit of residual jaw growth still happening, which can also contribute to forcing the teeth into slightly undesirable positions.


If you’ve ever heard Dr. Dudley emphasize how important it is to wear your retainer as directed after your braces come off, this is why! Without that regular pressure, natural drifting can occur, undoing the straight smile you worked so hard for, and waited so long to accomplish. Wearing your retainer exactly as directed is your best defense against your teeth shifting back to where they used to be.

Be wise about your wisdom teeth

You may be thinking that if there’s no worry about wisdom teeth ever wrecking your smile, you don’t really need to know more about them. However, it’s still important to understand how they can impact your overall oral health by learning about some of the potential problems that can accompany erupting wisdom teeth, such as:


  • If wisdom teeth only partially emerge, a flap of skin can form, partially covering the wisdom teeth, trapping food, and potentially causing tooth decay or gum infections.


  • If there’s not enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth, they can become impacted, getting stuck in your jaws and gums, unable to break through the surface.  


  • If your wisdom teeth do become impacted, painful cysts can form, some of which can cause infection and decay to surrounding tooth roots.


  • If the back of your mouth is particularly crowded, the wisdom teeth might come in at an awkward angle, causing them to rub painfully against your cheek.


The most common problem with wisdom teeth in general is that the majority of patients just don’t have enough room for them when they begin to come in. Even if you do have room, they may be so far back in the mouth that it’s hard to reach them to brush and floss thoroughly. This is actually one of the leading cause of oral decay and gum disease in the back of the mouth.


Portrait of a young man wearing braces and smiling confidentlyAfter your braces come off, wearing a retainer consistently and scheduling an appointment at the first sign of your wisdom teeth coming in is the best way to avoiding any of these potential problems. Regular visits to an orthodontist like Dr. Dudley should include periodic x-rays to check on the positioning of the wisdom teeth. This can help us determine whether they’re likely to create problems later on.


To sum it all up, remember that


  • Overcrowding problems can usually be diagnosed early on, long before the wisdom teeth erupt. Once they get close enough to the surface, they can be extracted by if necessary. This is one reason both the American Association of Orthodontics and Dudley Smiles recommend having an orthodontic evaluation done by about the age of 7.


  • Wisdom teeth can be removed while wearing braces, so even if they do start to come in during the course of your orthodontic treatment, you’ll be able to continue it uninterrupted.


  • Not everyone will need their wisdom teeth extracted. If there are no apparent problems with yours, there won’t be any need to remove them.


  • Once your braces are off, wear your retainer every night! We talk about it so much for a reason. Wearing your retainer will keep your teeth straight, but you must wear it on a daily basis. If you do notice it getting tight, or feel like there’s a lot of pressure in the back of your mouth, schedule a visit with us so we can take a look and determine if it’s due to your wisdom teeth coming in.

The wise choice for braces in Issaquah and Kent

At Dudley Smiles, your experience goes beyond braces. Our experienced team works hard to give you the smile of your dreams in a fun and friendly environment. If you’re in Issaquah, Kent, or the surrounding areas, and are looking for more information on how wisdom teeth can impact your oral health and orthodontic treatment, get in touch with us today! We’re happy to discuss your questions and concerns, and would love to schedule a free initial consultation for you at one of our conveniently located offices.


We look forward to welcoming you and your smile into our practice!


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