When you or your child undergo orthodontic treatment with Craig & Streight Orthodontics, you tend to learn a lot about teeth along the way. While you’re probably familiar with the way they grow and move as it relates to your braces or aligners, there’s one set of teeth we’re willing to bet you don’t know quite so much about – wisdom teeth! Because they’re not an especially common topic of conversation, you may be unaware of the part wisdom teeth have to play in your overall oral health.

As the last to erupt, these teeth don’t normally make an appearance until you’re in your late teens or early twenties. We have patients and parents alike who wonder if this timing means that a smile straightened by braces will be affected by wisdom teeth coming in. The short answer to this is no, but let’s take a closer look at what your wisdom teeth actually are, what you can expect when they erupt, and if this should concern you as a braces patient.

Keep reading to find out more!

What are wisdom teeth for, anyway?

Our ancestors ate a diet that was rich in coarse, hard-to-chew foods like roots, nuts, and meats. To make the most of it, they needed large, powerful jaws. In response to our diet evolving and becoming more varied, our jaws began to shrink in size. This has resulted in many mouths that are simply too small for wisdom teeth to fit in comfortably. To be sure, this isn’t the case for everyone, and some people will have their wisdom teeth come through in proper alignment with no issues whatsoever other than some slight tenderness. Further action is rarely necessary when this happens. However, there are times when erupting wisdom teeth can be painful and uncomfortable. Wisdom teeth grow in stages rather than all at once, so there are quite a few opportunities for discomfort before they fully erupt, which begs the question…..

women with Jaw ache

Will I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

Wisdom teeth won’t always need to be removed. However, If there’s not enough room in your mouth for yours to come through, it can put pressure on the adjacent teeth. If the wisdom teeth are coming in sideways, then they can become jammed behind the last tooth in the mouth. This is commonly referred to as impaction, and it can lead to swollen gums. Partially erupted teeth are also difficult to clean thoroughly, which can set you up for recurrent infections, and cause potential damage to the healthy molars beside them as well.  

Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Craig and Dr. Streight are able to tell how your wisdom teeth are coming in by taking an x-ray of your mouth. Our doctors will take the results of that x-ray into account along with the impact these are having on the rest of your mouth before recommending any further treatment, including wisdom tooth removal.

Can my wisdom teeth undo all my orthodontic progress?

It’s not uncommon for patients to see a slight shifting, or relapse, of their teeth around the same time their wisdom teeth begin erupting, but research shows the two are not related. A study done by the University of Iowa placed sensors between the teeth to compare the amount of pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth, and found there was no difference between the two. But if our wisdom teeth don’t exert enough pressure on the surrounding teeth to cause them to move, what causes that shifting? The truth of it is pretty simple: we get older!

Our teeth naturally begin drifting as we age, along with 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. This is precisely why our entire Craig & Streight team will remind you over and over (and over…) how important it is for you to wear your retainer as directed once you get your braces off! By following our instructions carefully, you’ll give your teeth the best chance to stay as straight as possible after your treatment is complete.

family with braces

Craig & Streight Orthodontics has the wisdom to keep your smile straight

Although it’s unlikely that your wisdom teeth will affect the results you’ve achieved through braces or aligners, removing them may still be recommended if our doctors feel it would benefit the overall health of your mouth to do so. Every patient and case is different, though, so we recommend you schedule a consultation with us to find out more about wisdom teeth in general and how they work with braces treatment, or a newly straightened smile.

With three conveniently located offices in Norman, Mustang, and South OKC, we’ve got a talented and dedicated team in place to create a rewarding orthodontic experience for you. Your comfort and care are important to us, and we’re here for you throughout the course of your treatment, and beyond. You can count on us to guide you towards a beautifully straight smile that will last a lifetime!