Do Wisdom Teeth Affect Braces?

At Bret Johnson Orthodontics, we care about patient concerns. A frequent question we’re asked before orthodontic treatment is: “Should I have my wisdom teeth removed, so they don’t impact my professionally straightened smile?” Similarly, other patients who have completed their orthodontic treatment may notice their wisdom teeth starting to erupt, and they wonder if these new teeth are going to undo all the hard work they just endured to create their beautiful, healthy smile. Let’s examine this issue further in order to alleviate these concerns.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, located at the back of the mouth, are the third and last set of molars on each side of the upper and lower jaws.  They are also the final teeth to erupt, usually appearing when a person is older (in their late teens or early twenties), hence the name wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth may have been useful to our ancestors because they could replace teeth that may have been lost through a rough diet, trauma, or decay.  However, with modern advancements in oral hygiene and softer diets, we don’t need these replacement teeth.

Why are wisdom teeth removed?

There are several myths about wisdom teeth that have led to the practice of removing them, even when asymptomatic. One such myth is that wisdom teeth push other teeth out of the way as they erupt, causing these other teeth to move and overlap.  However, recent studies show that wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure to cause misalignment in other teeth.  

That being said, there are circumstances that call for wisdom teeth removal. Sometimes current teeth are already blocking the mouth before the wisdom teeth have erupted, preventing them from growing in normally. Dentists call these teeth impacted. Aside from the pain they cause when growing in, impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems such as gum tenderness, cavities, and infection. Dentists or oral surgeons often remove impacted wisdom teeth before they become a problem for these reasons.

Should my wisdom teeth be removed, so they don’t affect my braces treatment?

No. Asymptomatic disease-free wisdom teeth should not be removed solely for the purpose of preventing movement of professionally straightened teeth. There is simply not enough evidence to support this practice. Wisdom teeth commonly begin erupting in the late teen years, between the ages of 17-21. Sometimes it does happen later. The arrival of these teeth is often marked by some achiness in the mouth and potentially, some slight shifting of the teeth. But as we said above, research has shown that wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure to cause a misalignment in other teeth.  

Therefore, more and more of us orthodontists are choosing to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to wisdom teeth extractions. Bret Johnson Orthodontics employs a staff of experienced orthodontic professionals. We will thoroughly evaluate whether you really do need your wisdom teeth removed.  As braces are a sizable investment, it makes good sense to remove troublesome teeth before proceeding with the braces. And just so you know, wisdom teeth surgery may sound frightening, but we can assure you it is a very routine procedure. By visiting your dentist regularly, examinations and X-rays can be used to follow the progress of your wisdom teeth.  Any potential problems should be found in the early stages.

x-ray of teeth

If not wisdom teeth, what causes my teeth to shift?

If you’re experiencing dental crowding, your wisdom teeth are most likely not to blame. What’s a common reason?  Age. The older we get our teeth start exhibiting a little of the same wear-and-tear that our bodies exhibit. As natural drifting occurs, teeth may start to overlap, which will push them forward slightly. When these teeth overlap, the upper teeth can push the lower teeth in closer to the tongue. Adults can also experience a minimal amount of jaw growth which can, in turn, force the teeth into less desirable positions.

How can I protect my professionally straightened smile?

women with braces

The best way to defend against drifting and overlap is by consistently wearing your retainer as instructed and to schedule an appointment at the first sign of your wisdom teeth coming in.

Summing Up

  • Problems like overcrowding can usually be diagnosed early, long before wisdom teeth erupt. We recommend seeing an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of 7.
  • Regular checkups will be used to monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth.
  • Not everyone will need to have his or her wisdom teeth removed.
  • Wisdom teeth should not be removed solely for the purpose of protecting your professionally straightened smile.
  • If needed, wisdom teeth can be removed while wearing braces.
  • Once braces come off, wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist in order to keep that perfect smile for years to come.

Choose an Experienced Orthodontist

At Bret Johnson Orthodontics, Dr. Bret Johnson and our experienced team are committed to delivering beautiful smiles and exceptional service while focusing on the development of lasting relationships with our patients and community. Our practice philosophy fuses evidence-based treatment and the latest in orthodontic technology to idealize orthodontic treatment and improve education.

We recognize that all our patients are unique and deserve to receive orthodontic care that reflects their individual needs. The first step to getting your ideal smile is with a free consultation! Dr. Bret will lay out a treatment plan with your needs and lifestyle in mind.  In our personal, relaxed environment, we encourage you to ask any questions you might have. With convenient locations in Spokane and Colville, we can help you quickly get on the path to a great smile. See you soon!