Nov 272014

Short Answer: No

Long Answer: I’m not really sure why well-educated dentists still propagate this old-wives tale. The idea is that as the wisdom teeth erupt (or try to erupt), they will push your other teeth forward and cause them to crowd together. Some dentists use this as a reason to convince patients to have wisdom teeth removed. First let’s get the facts out of the way: This has been studied extensively and it is a myth – plain and simple.

Just one of many studies [J Am Dent Assoc. 1992 Aug;123(8):75-9]

OK, now let’s put the research away and just use some good judgement. Most people have 16 teeth on the top and 16 on the bottom. Four of those are wisdom teeth. Sometimes wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to grow out or they may be growing out at an angle (thereby getting stuck under the molars in front of them). Now how in the world can 2 teeth move 14 other teeth with long, well-establish vertical roots forward? That’s physically not possible. Imagine trying your hardest to push 14 burly rugby players huddled together all by yourself. Good luck. Also, if wisdom teeth really did push your other teeth forward, why then do the wisdom teeth stay stuck under the gums or at their obscure angle? One would think they should eventually get all those teeth out of the way and come out normally, but of course that does not happen. Lastly, many patients are shocked to notice their teeth getting crowded and they proclaim in an exasperated tone, “How come this is happening? I had my wisdom teeth taken out!”. In other words, crowding continues to happen even when there are no wisdom teeth present. This puts a big hole in the myth about wisdom teeth crowding other teeth. In fact, we see teeth crowding even when a patient has no back molars at all.

So what does cause teeth to crowd? There is a natural process that occurs every time you chew which compresses your teeth towards the front of your mouth. Teeth are naturally tipped slightly forward so every time you take a bite, they get a little shove forward. It is a very slow process but it happens a little more every day (to most people but not all). From an evolutionary standpoint, there were no dentists in ancient times. People lost teeth throughout their life. Chewing on a tooth here and tooth there is very inefficient while chewing on a grouping of teeth is much better. As long as teeth keep drifting forward, spaces between teeth were minimized as they clumped together. The end result was a happy well-fed Neanderthal.

There are very good reasons to have wisdom teeth removed and I will cover the subject in more depth in future posts. But removing them because they are crowding your teeth is not one of those reasons.