Wisdom Teeth and Braces

Like any new experience in life, your orthodontic journey with Buttram Orthodontics will be a learning process, particularly if you’re wearing traditional braces. In the beginning, you’ll have many questions, and you may find yourself asking things like

As you work towards a straighter smile, you’ll find the answers to these questions and more. You’ll also gain quite a bit of knowledge about orthodontics in general, as well as how your own teeth grow and move as it relates to your braces. Although you’ll likely become familiar with the amazing things teeth and orthodontics can do together, there’s one set of teeth you may not hear much about – your wisdom teeth. These late-blooming molars don’t tend to be an especially common topic of conversation when it comes to orthodontics, so you may be unaware of the part they can play in your overall oral health.

As the last of your teeth to erupt, wisdom teeth don’t normally make an appearance until you’re in your late teens or early twenties. Some patients (and their parents!) worry that this timing will mean a successfully straightened smile can be affected by the wisdom teeth coming in. To learn more about what your wisdom teeth actually are, what you can expect as they begin coming in, and whether this is a problem for braces patients, keep reading below!

What are wisdom teeth for?

Our ancestors survived on a diet that was rich in coarse foods like roots, nuts, and meats. Chewing and digesting these properly required large, powerful jaws to chew. Once our diet began evolving, becoming more varied, our jaws began to shrink in response. This has resulted in smaller mouths which may not have enough room for wisdom teeth to fit in comfortably anymore. This isn’t the case for everyone. Many people will have their wisdom teeth come through in proper alignment with no issues besides some slight tenderness, and if this is the case, further action is rarely necessary. For others, however, erupting wisdom teeth can be painful and uncomfortable. Because these teeth grow in stages rather than all at once, there are quite a few opportunities for discomfort throughout the eruption process, which may leave you wondering….

x-ray image wisdom teeth

Will I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

Besides painful tenderness, if there’s not enough room in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to come through properly, it can put pressure on the adjacent teeth. If the teeth begin coming in sideways, they can become jammed behind the last tooth in the mouth. This is commonly referred to as impaction, and it can lead to painful, swollen gums. Partially erupted wisdom teeth can also be difficult to clean thoroughly, increasing your risk for recurrent infections. This can cause potential damage to the healthy molars beside them as well. 

An experienced orthodontists like Dr. Buttram will be able to tell how your wisdom teeth are coming in by taking an x-ray of your mouth. Based on the results of that x-ray, along with any orthodontic issues your wisdom teeth may be causing, we may recommend further treatment, including wisdom tooth removal. In general, though, your wisdom teeth will only need to come out if they are causing pain, pressure, or other problems in the mouth.

Can wisdom teeth undo orthodontic progress?

About the time your wisdom teeth begin erupting, there’s a natural shifting of the teeth occuring. This slight movement is known as relapse, and because the two happen concurrently, many people believe the two must be related or that it’s a cause-and-effect situation.

To test this theory, the University of Iowa conducted a study. Sensors were placed between the teeth of the subjects to compare the amount of pressure on them with and without wisdom teeth present. They found that there was no noticeable difference between the two. In other words, our wisdom teeth do not exert enough pressure on the surrounding teeth to cause them to move.

But if wisdom teeth don’t cause this shifting, what does? As it turns out, the answer is pretty simple: it’s all part of the aging process. As we get older, our teeth begin to drift naturally. They will also start showing some signs of general wear and tear. This can cause our teeth to overlap and move slightly forward, with the upper teeth pressing the lower teeth in towards the tongue. Residual jaw growth can also force the teeth into undesirable positions.

If you’ve been a Buttram Orthodontics patient for any time at all, chances are good you’ve heard us talk about how important retainer use is once your braces come off. This natural drifting is the exact reason why! Wearing your retainer as directed by Dr. Buttram will give your teeth the best chance to stay straight after your braces treatment is complete.

Buttram staff working with a patient

Be wise and put your smile in our hands

Here at Buttram Orthodontics, our talented team work hard to give you a beautifully aligned smile that will last a lifetime. There’s no need to worry about wisdom teeth erupting during the course of your orthodontic treatment, as we should be able to continue easily and without interruption. And although it’s unlikely that your wisdom teeth will affect the picture-perfect smile you’ve achieved with braces, every patient and case is different.

If you have concerns about how your own wisdom teeth are growing in, you should schedule an appointment with your general dentist to discuss the way they’re erupting. We’ll also be happy to give you peace of mind about how this growth shouldn’t be an issue for your smile. If you have any questions or concerns about how wisdom teeth could impact your orthodontic results, get in touch and we’ll do all we can to set your mind at ease.