If you’ve recently learned that your smile could benefit from an orthodontic treatment like braces, you’re likely to have a list of common concerns as long as your arm. Will they hurt? How long will you need to wear them? Are there going to be foods you have to avoid? Will you still be able to play sports or participate in band? Is it possible your wisdom teeth could affect that straight smile you’ve worked and waited for so patiently?

Wait, wait, hold on. Wisdom teeth?

Absolutely! Wisdom teeth may not be the first thing you think of when you’re contemplating braces, but this is a question we deal with fairly often here at Bennett Orthodontics. When patients get close to successfully completing their orthodontic treatment, and then notice their wisdom teeth coming in, it can really kick their anxiety into overdrive.

What if the wisdom teeth move the ones they’ve just straightened out?! Will this ruin the results they’ve worked so hard for? Can these additional teeth really exert enough pressure that other teeth are moved as a result? Because both parents and patients alike often inquire about this subject, today we’re going to take a look at if and how wisdom teeth can impact braces treatment.  

Can wisdom teeth impact your professionally straightened smile?

The timing of wisdom teeth is what lies behind much of this worry. Because they typically make an appearance in the later teen years into early adulthood, some patients will see a slight shifting of the teeth, also known as a relapse, around this time as well. But are wisdom teeth the culprit?

The general consensus is no. For example, the University of Iowa conducted research on this subject, and found that the wisdom teeth don’t actually exert enough pressure on the teeth in front of them to cause them to shift. Their study involved placing sensors between the teeth that were able to compare the pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth. There was no difference between the two.

That our teeth tend to shift a bit when we’re around 17-21 years of age is undeniable, though. If wisdom teeth aren’t a key factor in that, then what is?

Laughing teenage girl with bracesThe biggest reason is actually quite simple: we get older.

As we age, our teeth will begin to show some signs of general wear and tear. Our teeth may begin to overlap more as a natural drifting occurs, moving them slightly forward. As these teeth begin to overlap, the upper teeth can press the lower teeth in towards the tongue. There’s also some residual jaw growth that can happen around this time, forcing the teeth into positions that could be slightly undesirable.

If you’re new to braces, you’re about to hear over and over how important it is to wear your retainer faithfully after your braces come off. This is the biggest reason why! Wearing your retainer as directed by your orthodontist is the single best defense in helping your teeth stay as straight as possible after treatment.

The basics of wisdom teeth

You may not need to worry about wisdom teeth wrecking your smile, but it’s still important for you to understand how they can impact your overall oral health.

When wisdom teeth begin erupting, there are quite a few potential problems that can accompany them.

  • If wisdom teeth only partially emerge, a flap of skin can form there, partially covering the wisdom teeth and trapping food and eventually bacteria. This can cause tooth decay or gum infections.
  • If for any reason, you don’t have enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to fully erupt, they can become impacted, getting stuck in your jaws and gums and unable to break through the surface.  
  • If your wisdom teeth do become impacted, sometimes 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, wisdom teeth might come in at an awkward angle and rub painfully against your cheek.

By far, the most common problem with wisdom teeth is that many patients just don’t have enough room for them when they begin to erupt. And even if you do have room for your wisdom teeth to come in, they can be so far back in the mouth that it’s hard to properly brush and floss them. This is actually one of the leading causes of oral decay and gum disease in the back of the mouth!

smiling Hipster girl in glasses and braces making a selfshoot on wooden backgroundAs mentioned, wearing your retainer consistently after completing orthodontic treatment, as well as scheduling an appointment at the first sign of wisdom teeth, is the best way to avoid any of these potential problems. Keeping up with regular visits to your dentist or orthodontist is an excellent preventative measure, as well, especially if they include periodic x-rays to check the positioning of the wisdom teeth. This can help determine whether they’ll be likely to create problems later on.

Summing it all up

  • Problems like overcrowding can usually be diagnosed early on, long before the wisdom teeth erupt. This is one reason we recommend seeing an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of 7.
  • Wisdom teeth can be removed while wearing braces. If they start to come in during the course of your orthodontic treatment, you’ll be able to continue easily and without interruption.
  • That said, not everyone will need to have their wisdom teeth extracted. If there are no apparent problems with yours, there won’t be any reason to remove them. No need to fix what isn’t broken!
  • Once your treatment is complete and your braces come off, wear your retainer every night. We can’t emphasize this enough! Wearing your retainer will keep your teeth straight, but only if you wear it on a daily basis and as instructed by your orthodontist.

Changing lives by changing smiles

At Bennett Orthodontics, transformation is a key concept for our team. It’s no secret that a great smile is consistently linked to both professional and personal success. Straight teeth in the correct position, coupled with excellent oral care, is not only an aesthetically pleasing sight, but a confidence booster as well. Every day, we’re fortunate enough to witness our patients transform from self-conscious to self-confident thanks to a healthier, straighter smile!

Are you in the Mobile area and looking for more information on how your wisdom teeth can impact your orthodontic treatment or overall oral health? If so, get in touch with us today to schedule an initial consultation! We’re happy to sit down with you and discuss any questions or concerns you have. We would love to make you and your smile feel right at home!