Are Wisdom Teeth Really Necessary to Remove?

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Wisdom tooth removal is certainly not something anyone really wants to do.  Not only is oral surgery expensive, recovery can be painful too.  This leads many to ask, is it necessary to remove the wisdom teeth? 

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to develop in the mouth.  They are also called third molars, and will usually show up during the late teen years. 

Most people have 4 wisdom teeth – 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom.  However, some people have less or even more wisdom teeth. 

Is It Necessary to Remove Wisdom Teeth?

In the past, wisdom teeth were used to grind tough food.  However, nowadays wisdom teeth are not necessary.  Because of that, wisdom teeth are often removed.  But, is it necessary to remove the wisdom teeth?

There are some good reasons to get your wisdom teeth removed.  They can cause teeth crowding, pain, and infection.  Wisdom teeth can also be difficult to clean, as they are located so far back in the mouth. 

However, not all people require wisdom tooth removal. If the teeth are fully erupted and healthy, they may cause no problems.  It is important to discuss with your doctor if it is necessary to remove your wisdom teeth, as it should be decided on a case by case basis. 

Reasons to Remove Wisdom Teeth

There are many reasons dentists will deem it necessary to remove wisdom teeth.  Our jaws have evolved to be smaller than before and we no longer need wisdom teeth to aid in chewing.  Instead, wisdom teeth can cause a lot of potential problems. 


A common issue with wisdom teeth is crowding. By the time they develop in the mouth, there isn’t much space left. As they continue to grow, they may push against the other teeth causing crowding and misalignment of the bite.

Impacted teeth

Because there isn’t much space in the mouth, the wisdom teeth may become impacted.  Impacted teeth are teeth that are not fully erupted, so they are stuck underneath the gums, or are just partially sticking out.  

Impacted teeth can cause problems eventually – such as pain, swelling, damage to nearby teeth, and cysts in the jaw bone.  This is why dentists often recommend removing impacted teeth even if they are not currently causing issues. 

Gum disease

Wisdom teeth can cause gum disease just based on their location.  They are located far back in the mouth, which makes cleaning them difficult.  

If the teeth are impacted, or partially erupted, a flap of gum tissue forms, where bacteria can easily form. This can lead to gum infection and gum disease.   


Impacted wisdom teeth are prone to infection because when they are partially erupted there is a space for bacteria to enter.  Symptoms of wisdom tooth infection are swelling, pain, fever, bad breath, and bad taste in the mouth.

Difficulty Cleaning

As I mentioned earlier, wisdom teeth are hard to clean.  They are so far back in the mouth, it’s hard to see back there and even harder to clean.  Because of this, wisdom teeth are prone to plaque and tartar build up, which eventually can become cavities. 

Reasons People May Keep Their Wisdom Teeth

Sometimes a dentist may deem it is not necessary to remove the wisdom teeth. This may be because there are no issues with the teeth, or there are risks with the oral surgery. Furthermore, some people may opt to keep their wisdom teeth due to the financial cost of the surgery.

No Issues With the Teeth

If your wisdom teeth have grown in nicely and are properly positioned, you may not need to remove them. 

Risks of Surgery

No surgery is without risk, and that includes oral surgery as well.  Risks of oral surgery are bleeding, infection, anesthesia complications, nerve damage, and dry socket. While wisdom tooth extraction is usually safe, people with certain conditions or on certain medications may need to avoid it. 

Financial Cost

Wisdom tooth extraction, even with dental insurance can be pricey.  Some people may not be able to, or want to pay that much. 

On average, wisdom tooth extraction costs anywhere from $200 – $600 per tooth.  Impacted teeth that need to be surgically removed are more costly.  Dental insurance plans may cover a large percentage of this, but not always, so it’s important to check your insurance plan to see what the coverage is.  

Alternatives to Wisdom Teeth Removal

In some cases there may be alternatives to wisdom teeth removal.


While wisdom teeth are usually all extracted at the same time to prevent future problems, you could also monitor your wisdom teeth and extract them only if necessary. 

Extraction of Only Problem Teeth

Instead of extracting all wisdom teeth, you could just extract the teeth that are causing issues.  This could help in cases where the patient does not want to pay for the extraction of all 4 teeth at the same time. 

However, most people would rather not undergo oral surgery more than once, which is why it is recommended to take out 4 teeth at one time. 


Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to develop. They are located all the way in the back of the mouth.  Most dentists deem it necessary to remove wisdom teeth because leaving them in can cause crowding, impacted teeth, and gum disease.