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The Mythical Effect of Wisdom Teeth

Woman smiling with blue background

Adults will often say that they had braces as a kid, and for a while very nicely aligned teeth… But then those darn wisdom teeth started to grow in and crowding ensued.

Can we squarely put the blame on the wisdom teeth? Some years ago, many theorized that this was the case. Then, new research came out that actually showed that wisdom teeth aren’t the reason why teeth crowd. One such study looked at tooth alignment of former braces patients.

These patients were placed into 3 categories:

1) patients who still had wisdom teeth

2) patients who had them removed

3) patients who never had wisdom teeth genetically to begin with.

The average alignment/misalignment was equivalent across all groups regardless of whether the patient had wisdom teeth or not. A different study* found that the wisdom teeth do not produce enough forward pressure to be able to push the teeth in front of them out of alignment.

So… then why do some adults who used to have straight teeth now have crowding? In most cases it is because the adults stopped wearing their retainers. Unfortunately teeth and bone are ever-evolving, ever-changing parts of our bodies just like everything else. We all know that skin changes and sags downward over time… Bone continues to change and remodel, and teeth in turn have a tendency to shift forward and inward. This is often what leads to that crowding in the front, especially in the lower jaw.

The good news is that there is a great way to combat these natural forces upon our teeth. Retainers! Long-term consistent nightly wear of retainers can ward off most unwanted tooth movement. This is great news, because it means that by simply popping your retainers in at night you can maintain a beautiful smile and avoid this natural progression of crowding.

Immediately after your treatment is finished at Hocking Orthodontics we prescribe 4 months of full time retainer wear. Following this we ask patients to wear retainers every night for at least 1-2 years. At this point, the gold standard is to continue to wear retainers nightly… But it is generally acceptable to wear the retainers for as little as 3-4 nights a week, depending on each person’s particular susceptibility to relapse.

* Study by Dr. Tom Southard at the University of Iowa

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