Do Wisdom Teeth Really Cause Overcrowding?

Wisdom teeth, clinically known as third molars, emerge during the late teen years or early twenties. According to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nine out of ten people have at least one impaction, a wisdom tooth that does not fully erupt from the gums or jaw bone. Impacted wisdom teeth are associated with several serious oral health problems, including an increased risk for decay between the second and third molars, gum inflammation and infection, infections or cysts around the root of the tooth, and, as popular wisdom holds, overcrowding of the front teeth. However, some debate exists regarding whether leaving impacted wisdom teeth in place truly leads to overcrowding.

Mouth Anatomy and Physiology Holds the Key

Unfortunately, the body of research examining whether impacted wisdom teeth can lead to crowding in the front teeth (and whether, by extension, extracting the wisdom teeth solely for the reason of preventing overcrowding is viable) remains unresolved. However, the way different parts of the mouth contribute to tooth movement seems to counter this idea. The forces that create equilibrium along your dental arch include:

  • The tongue, which exerts forward pressure on the inner side of the teeth.
  • The lips and cheeks, which counteract this forward movement by pushing inward on the teeth.
  • Each tooth is also held in place via pressure exerted by the opposing tooth (or teeth).

Given that the third molars themselves are held in equilibrium, it doesn’t make sense that they would exert enough force to move the front teeth, even if they lay at an angle.

Practical Approach to Wisdom Teeth Removal

It should be noted that even though impacted wisdom teeth may not lead to overcrowding, they can lead to an unhealthy oral environment and even endanger the neighboring teeth. Your dentist will not recommend removing the wisdom teeth unless they currently pose a serious threat to your oral health or if they have the potential for causing problems in the future.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and certification in oral and IV sedation, Shawn Hofkes, DDS is qualified to provide safe wisdom teeth extractions from our state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.