When you’re investing in your child or teenager’s smile with orthodontic treatment, it’s understandable that you would want a long-lasting outcome. That’s why a lot of parents and patients ask, “Can wisdom teeth move other teeth?” “Should I get wisdom teeth removed before braces?”
If the wisdom teeth do erupt (not everyone gets them), it’s not usually until between the ages of 17 and 21. At that point, a teen’s braces or Invisalign® treatment probably wrapped up a few years prior. So the question is valid.
In this post, Dr. Vishal Sharma, Dr. Everett Lin and Dr. Julia Koo, certified specialists in orthodontics, will be discussing all things wisdom teeth and orthodontics to give you an evidence-based answer.
What are Wisdom Teeth?
As we said, the third molars generally erupt between ages 17 and 21. Since they come in when a person is older and supposedly wiser, they earned the nickname, wisdom teeth. While there are four wisdom teeth in total, some people don’t get all four or even any.
Your wisdom teeth can come in perfectly healthy. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. The wisdom teeth are the teeth that are most commonly impacted. This means they get stuck under the bone or tissue and are unable to erupt correctly.
They might not erupt at all (fully impacted), they might erupt only partially (partially impacted) or they could erupt on an odd angle. These issues can cause pain, decay and infection, though not always.
Do Wisdom Teeth Make Your Teeth Crooked?
Years ago, it was thought that wisdom teeth could move other teeth as they erupted, especially if they were not in the correct position. The idea was that the wisdom teeth would exert pressure, shifting other teeth and causing lower incisor (front teeth) crowding, changes in the bite and/or a relapse after past orthodontic treatment.
It turns out that’s not true. Research, including a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, has found the wisdom teeth don’t exert enough pressure to move other teeth. And this same study, as well as another published in the British Journal of Orthodontics, found removing the wisdom teeth does not prevent crowding or relieve interdental pressure.
The American Public Health Association published an article in its journal in 2011 calling the prophylactic extraction of wisdom teeth a “public health hazard.” They cited research that shows only 12% of truly impacted wisdom teeth actually cause complications.
The author also noted, “It is not possible for lower third molars, which develop in the spongy interior cancellous tissue of bone with no firm support, to push 14 other teeth with roots implanted vertically like the pegs of picket fence so that the incisors in the middle twist and overlap.”
That’s not to say the teeth don’t shift
Where did the belief that wisdom teeth move other teeth come from? Well, at the age people get wisdom teeth, shifting can occur, but it’s a coincidence. During the mid-to-late teen years, the teeth have a tendency to move forward a bit and lower incisor crowding does happen in some people.
While there are a number of factors that can cause these changes, it’s thought that it’s at least partially due to late lower jaw growth, which is when the lower jaw has a final growth spurt in the mid-to-late teen years.
Natural, age-related changes like this are the reason our Langley and Surrey orthodontists have patients wear a retainer after braces or Invisalign Teen treatment. Wearing a retainer is the only way to maintain your results and it prevents shifting and movement. Ideally, you’d wear your retainer for life, even if, eventually, it’s just a few nights a week.
Can Teeth Shift After Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Now that you know erupting wisdom teeth do not make your teeth crooked, what about the removal of wisdom teeth? Will the teeth shift after your wisdom teeth are extracted and there’s more space in the jaw?
After extraction, the wisdom teeth will no longer be sitting against your molars. So, theoretically, your molars could shift slightly if you don’t wear your retainer. However, it would not be enough to cause major changes or undo your orthodontic treatment on its own. Your best bet? Continue wearing your retainer to prevent shifting from all causes.
A Note on Waiting to Get Braces or Invisalign
Another thing to consider is getting wisdom teeth removed before braces or Invisalign would, for many, mean starting treatment in the early-to-mid 20s. Adult orthodontics is effective and we have plenty of adult braces and Invisalign patients at Aura Orthodontics.
But, the reason why many patients start treatment around the age of 12 or 13 isn’t just because the permanent second molars are in; it’s also because patients are still growing. During the early teenage years, kids have faster metabolisms and the orthodontist can harness growth for more efficient treatment.
If a patient requires skeletal correction to fix a bad bite, we can usually achieve it with appliances alone in pre-teen and teenage patients. Once the jaw is done growing, only such much can be done to address a bite imbalance without resorting to more invasive treatment options, such as implant-supported appliances and/or corrective jaw surgery.
Do I Even Need to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
A lot of doctors are reassessing the practice of prophylactic (preventative) wisdom tooth removal based on a growing body of research that says it’s not necessary. This is when wisdom teeth that aren’t causing issues are removed as soon as they begin to come in just in case they’ll cause problems in the future.
However, wisdom teeth removal is not orthodontic. It is usually performed by an oral surgeon. Therefore, deciding whether or not to have your wisdom teeth extracted is something you should discuss with your general dentist and oral surgeon.
They may recommend wisdom teeth removal if:
- The soft tissues around the wisdom teeth become infected
- Impacted teeth are causing jaw or sinus pain and headaches
- Tumor or cysts develop in the jaw
- The teeth are hard to keep clean, leading to tooth decay and gum disease
Can You Get Wisdom Teeth Removed With Braces On?
What if you’re already in braces and your wisdom teeth are symptomatic? If you’ve been evaluated by your dentist and an oral surgeon and it’s decided that your wisdom teeth need to be extracted, then, yes, you can get your wisdom teeth removed with braces.
Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin and Dr. Koo would coordinate with your dentist and surgeon to ensure that wisdom tooth removal didn’t interfere with your treatment.
When Can I Wear My Retainer After Wisdom Tooth Removal?
After all of this talk about teeth shifting and the importance of retainers, you might be wondering when you can wear your retainer after getting your wisdom teeth taken out.
Following the procedure, you want to do everything you can to encourage optimal healing and keep pain and swelling under control. Follow all after-care instructions given to you by your oral surgeon. If the instructions discuss when you can wear a retainer again, stick with those guidelines.
Otherwise, in most cases, you’ll need to wait at least 24 hours after surgery so you don’t dislodge clots or cause extractions sites to become irritated. Once a full 24 hours has passed, you may be able to attempt to put in your retainer as soon as you feel ready. If it hurts, take it out and try again in a day or two. If it’s comfortable, you can wear it as you normally do.
Just be extra diligent about keeping your retainer clean, because you don’t need any extra bacteria to deal with during your healing period.
The Bottom Line
You do not need to wait until your wisdom teeth are removed to get braces or Invisalign. Wisdom teeth don’t exert enough force to move other teeth and will not cause an orthodontic relapse.
However, natural changes can occur in your teeth and bite as you get older. So, it’s important to wear your retainer to keep your smile looking like it did when you finished orthodontic treatment.
Schedule a Visit With a Langley or Surrey, BC Orthodontist
Whether you haven’t started treatment yet or you just need a new retainer, the team at Aura Orthodontics can help. We offer clear braces, metal braces, Invisalign and Invisalign Teen in Surrey and Langley, BC. We also create custom retainers to help you keep your teeth in position at every stage of life.
Schedule a consultation with us today to get started!