Do Wisdom Teeth Affect Braces - Debunking the Myths

Aesthetics & Personal Wellbeing

Woman sitting in dentist chair in clinic room laughing while dentist is about to treat her teeth.

It’s true, wisdom teeth can cause a range of problems for much of the population. But not everyone has to go to the trouble and expense of having wisdom teeth removed, regardless of whether you have orthodontic treatment. 

There are many half-truths and myths surrounding wisdom teeth and orthodontic treatment, so we’re setting the record straight. 

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third molars located right at the back of the mouth. Improved dental health and changes in our diet over hundreds of years mean we don’t need our wisdom teeth like our predecessors generations ago.

Most people have four wisdom teeth (two on the top arch and two on the bottom), but some people never develop them in the gums, while others are there but don’t erupt. The following are possible scenarios for wisdom teeth:

  • All four wisdom teeth erupt into perfect position

  • The teeth erupt into good position but there is a gum flap covering it

  • One or more teeth erupt at an angle (impacted) 

  • One or more teeth remain unerupted in the gum 

  • No wisdom teeth are found on x-ray 

Myth #1 Wisdom Teeth Should Be Routinely Removed Before Braces

An orthodontist will always consider the wisdom teeth before treatment begins. If the teeth haven’t erupted yet and it’s obvious there isn’t enough room for them, an orthodontist may recommend having them removed before treatment begins. But if there’s room in the jaw for the wisdom teeth to erupt, the orthodontist may recommend leaving the teeth where they are and continue with treatment and monitor.  

The reasons for removing wisdom teeth include:

  • The wisdom tooth is causing the nearby gum and/or cheek to be infected more than once because food is trapped.

  • The impacted wisdom tooth causes food to be trapped causing the wisdom tooth or second molar to become decayed.

  • The wisdom tooth is decayed to the point it can’t be restored.

  • There is an infection or cyst near the wisdom tooth.

  • The wisdom tooth is causing pain. 

Myth #2 Braces Aren’t Considered for Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Braces are an effective treatment method for impacted teeth, but not all. Sometimes an orthodontist can save an impacted tooth by making more room for it or use braces to pull it into an upright position. However, not everyone has enough room in the jaw for an impacted wisdom tooth because the surrounding teeth have nowhere to go. A lack of space is the most common reason for removing wisdom teeth. 

Even when braces can’t be used on an impacted tooth, they can assist surrounding teeth. The tooth adjacent (above or below) an impacted tooth will often protrude out of the gum to compensate for its impacted neighbour. The tooth is at risk because of its exposed roots and is out of line with teeth on either side. Braces are ideal for pulling the tooth back into the gum so the tip of the tooth is in line with others.   

Myth #3 You Can’t Have Wisdom Teeth Extracted With Braces

While plenty of orthodontic patients have their wisdom teeth removed just prior or after braces, it is possible to have wisdom teeth removed during orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist will refer you back to your dentist or to an oral surgeon to do the extractions.  

Myth #4 After You’ve had Braces, You Don’t Need to Worry About Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25, soon after many adolescents have finished their orthodontic treatment. It’s dangerous to think that braces have created room for the wisdom teeth to come through. In many cases, a patient’s jaw is not long enough to fit their wisdom teeth. 

Patients who have finished orthodontic treatment should make sure they continue to see their dentist and orthodontist at the recommended intervals to check on the progress of their wisdom teeth. If the wisdom teeth erupt, they can cause overcrowding of surrounding teeth. And within months we can lose all the hard work of wearing braces to achieve the perfect smile. 

Myth #5 You Should Panic if Your Wisdom Teeth Erupt After Braces

After your investment in braces, it’s understandable you don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with your teeth. It is important to have a check-up with your dentist after you feel your wisdom teeth erupt, but it doesn’t need to be within days. If you’re wearing your retainers as recommended by your orthodontist, the little pressure your wisdom teeth exert on the surrounding teeth will be no match for the retainer. Until your next appointment with your dentist, keep wearing your retainer as instructed to keep teeth in their correct place.

If you have any concerns about your wisdom teeth, call The Orthodontists or contact us online to make an appointment.