Can I Still Have my Wisdom Teeth Removed as an Adult?

woman getting ready for dental work

Yes. You’re never too old to get your wisdom teeth removed. Admittedly, getting it done in your late teens to early 20’s is ideal, but it doesn’t mean that as a 50 or 60 year-old, you’re out of luck if you need your wisdom teeth extracted. There are definitely some differences to the procedure, healing time and recovery, but oral surgeons are so used to all types of wisdom tooth extractions – it’s not hard for them to tailor solutions for older adults. The process of removing wisdom teeth in an older adult is a bit more involved than in young adults, though, because of the higher bone density, and because the wisdom teeth are fully developed by your mid-20’s.

Why You Might Need Your Wisdom Teeth Extracted Later in Life

Removing wisdom teeth at young adulthood is a preventative measure, more than anything, because wisdom teeth have the potential to cause a lot of problems. However, if at that age your wisdom teeth developed and came in just fine, your dentist and oral surgeon probably agreed there was no reason to take them out. There isn’t any research to say that there’s a benefit to removing wisdom teeth that aren’t causing problems. But your body never stops moving and changing as you age. So just because they weren’t causing a problem then, doesn’t mean that now they couldn’t be the cause of your toothaches or gum disease.

Reasons you might need to get your wisdom teeth out as an older adult include:

  • The wisdom teeth are pushing on other teeth, causing your bite to shift.
  • You’ve developed periodontitis (gum disease) as a result of not being able to properly care for teeth that far back in your mouth.
  • The tooth itself gets infected.
  • A cyst has formed. These can result in serious infections and even damage or kill nerves.

Wisdom teeth are by nature more susceptible to decay, breakage and other complications because they’re harder to brush and floss properly.

How to Tell You Might Need Wisdom Teeth Removed

If you’ve never had your wisdom teeth taken out, call your dentist if you start experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Swelling of the gums near the back of your mouth
  • Repeatedly getting cavities
  • Chronic headaches
  • Tenderness of the jaw at the back of your mouth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Sinus issues
  • Jaw stiffness/ trouble chewing
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

How Healing Time for a Wisdom Tooth Extraction Differs for Adults

Being completely honest, wisdom tooth removals in older adults includes a lengthier and more uncomfortable recovery process. When you’re young, you’ve got three things going for you that make the process of wisdom tooth extraction easy:

  1. You have lower bone density,
  2. Your wisdom teeth aren’t fully formed, and
  3. Your body’s ability to regenerate bone is at top form.

Once you’re a ways into adulthood, age creeps in. Your bone density rises, your wisdom teeth root themselves in your jaw, and your ability to regenerate bony tissue slows. That means that (a) during the procedure itself, the oral surgeon often has to take more bone from the jaw than they would a younger person, and (b) there is a longer and more precarious healing time after the procedure.

But, don’t worry; it’s really not all that scary. It just takes a little extra self-care, a couple extra days off work, and intentional, consistent communication with your dentist and oral surgeon after you’ve had the wisdom teeth removed. At the end of the day, a few days of discomfort is a small price to pay for preserving the health of your mouth and jaw.

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