When it comes to dental procedures, few are as dreaded as the removal of the third molars, also known as wisdom teeth. These teeth and unnecessary and often cause painful crowding in the rest of the jaw or even damage to the other molars. Waiting too long to have them removed increases your chances of secondary problems popping up during recovery, especially if you wait until after age 25. However, there is a limit to how young a dental patient can be and still undergo a safe wisdom tooth extraction.
Formation of Wisdom Teeth
Obviously you can't remove the wisdom teeth before they're fully formed, and that doesn't happen in the first few years of life. In fact, the first development of these teeth usually begins around age nine. There's no way to perform an extraction or surgical removal of the third molars before this point because nothing exists to remove yet. Very few patients even have enough to remove at age nine since the crown doesn't finish developing and move into root formation until around age 14.
Youngest Patient on Record
The world record for the youngest wisdom tooth extraction was set by a boy who was nearly 10 years old. His wisdom teeth were already overcrowding his jaw in the earliest stages of development so there was no good reason to wait any longer to perform the usual extraction. This is an extremely rare case and was one of only a few third molar extractions to be performed on a patient under of the age of 12. Even though there are benefits to removing wisdom teeth early instead of waiting for them to develop completely, there's plenty of time for that without having to resort to surgery on such a young child.
Safe Early Removal
Most patients that have a real need for early wisdom tooth removal have it done between the ages of 12 and 15. This ensures the patient is old enough to handle the challenges of general anesthesia or sedation. It's also important for the patient to participate in their own wound care to prevent dry socket and other complications after extraction, so maturity is another factor in deciding if early removal is the right choice. Dentists generally only recommend wisdom tooth removal this early if the third molars are threatening to damage the rest of the teeth or are preventing the second molars from erupting properly. If there's no cause for alarm, most dentists recommend waiting a few more years for the extraction.
Most Common Ages
The majority of wisdom tooth extractions are performed on patients between the ages of 17 and 20. Since the crowns of these teeth don't start erupting through the gums until at least age 16 for most patients, it's natural to wait and plan for a simple extraction rather than rushing into a surgical removal at a younger age when there are no secondary complications. However, waiting until the roots are fully developed in a 20 year old can lead to more pain and a slower healing process than is necessary.
Benefits to Early Extraction
Choosing a younger age for wisdom tooth extraction can save your child a lot of extra pain. By removing the tooth while it is just a crown and partial roots, there is much less disturbance in the gum tissue. The extraction sites heal much faster and swell less in the first few days after the procedure. The teeth only continue to calcify and lock into the jaw as the patient ages, so even getting teeth extracted at 21 is easier than waiting until 25 or beyond.
Talk to your dentist, someone like Dale Lentz, about when is the ideal time to have your wisdom teeth pulled.