DR. GEOFF STANTON
TOWNSVILLE ORTHODONTIC SPECIALISTS
Recently my daughter said to me “Dad, my wisdom teeth are coming up and I’m worried that my front teeth will move”. Many of our patients wonder if the benefits of orthodontic treatment will be undone by the eruption of their wisdom teeth.
Is it true that ‘wisdom teeth’ (also known as the third molars) actually lead to crowding of the front teeth? This is a question that has been thoroughly debated and investigated over the past 50 years.
Why do our teeth move over time?
We often see patients who have seen changes in the position of their upper and particularly their lower front teeth as late teens or as young adults. Some of these patients had very well aligned teeth before. It is easy to blame the wisdom teeth for these changes, as this is the time that they tend to erupt, but there are actually many other possible factors which can affect teeth positions. Your teeth are housed in living and changing bone, rather than set in “concrete”. Therefore teeth positions can be affected by any or a combination of the following factors.
• Late lower jaw growth which can lead to inward tipping of the lower front teeth
• Changes in the elasticity of the cheeks and lips and/or pressure from the tongue
• Loss of gum tissue or bony support for the teeth through gum disease
The assumption is that the wisdom teeth “push” and place pressure on the other teeth, which eventually causes the front teeth to become more crowded as we age. Many studies have assessed this theory and have found that wisdom teeth are not the primary cause of dental crowding. In fact, up to 25% of people are missing their wisdom teeth from birth and these patients still develop the same crowding later in life! This means that removing wisdom teeth will not guarantee that the front teeth will stay straight! It seems that wisdom teeth have been unfairly blamed for dental crowding and are considered to be ‘guilty’ merely by time association!
Reasons for removing wisdom teeth
Even though wisdom teeth are not directly linked to lower incisor crowding, there are still many other reasons to remove wisdom including:
• Ongoing gum infections around the wisdom tooth
• Cleaning difficulty in the area (which can lead to decay or gum disease)
• Possibility of associated cysts or pathology
Many patients eventually require removal of their wisdom teeth, however, such removal cannot be viewed as a preventive measure against later dental crowding. Your general dentist and maxillofacial surgeons will manage their removal.
How to keep the front teeth straight – retainers
Orthodontic treatment delivers confidence through a beautiful and healthy smile.
Understandably, it is most disheartening for both Orthodontist and patient when undesirable tooth movement occurs after the treatment. Faithfully wearing retainers for the long-term will help preserve the beautifully straight teeth which we have all worked so hard for.
Avoid unwanted tooth movement, by treating your teeth and retainers with respect and you will achieve the best value and longevity out of your orthodontic experience.
Naturally, the body inevitably changes as we age. Tooth movement, like wrinkles, occurs with time as a part of the normal aging process. Thankfully we can hold off unwanted teeth changes, through maintaining good oral health and the simple wearing of retainers. Retainers are sometimes referred to as the ‘Botox’ for teeth! There is certainly great wisdom in wearing your retainers.