Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Worth the Risk?

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Worth the Risk?

Oral health is one of my favorite topics to research. I find it fascinating that nutrition plays such an important part in oral health (and conventional dentistry doesn’t mention this!). Wisdom tooth removal is an unfortunate necessity because of the poor diet we have eaten for the last couple of generations and the smaller mouths that result. Or is it? It turns out that wisdom tooth removal may not be as universally necessary as we think.

What Are Wisdom Teeth for Anyway?

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the molars in the back of your mouth that erupt around the age of 18. With so many people getting wisdom teeth removed, many wonder why we have them to begin with. Anthropologists believe that the wisdom tooth’s role is in helping chew the rough foods our ancestors ate (raw vegetables, nuts, meat, etc). They aren’t as essential today with the ability to cook foods before eating (not to mention the large amounts of processed, soft foods in the modern diet), but they are still a living organ of the body.

Why Extract Wisdom Teeth?

If you had your wisdom teeth removed in your late teens or early twenties you may not have thought twice about it. Many dentists look at x-rays and recommend wisdom tooth extraction as a preventative treatment for most people. Here are the reasons that many dentists and oral surgeons recommend removal:

  • May become impacted – Impaction happens when the wisdom tooth does not fully erupt out of the gum tissue because it’s blocked by another tooth. Impacted wisdom teeth may accumulate food around the gum and harbor bacteria. Most bacteria can decay the tooth next to it. If this isn’t dealt with it could cause a serious infection.
  • They’re really hard to clean – Dentist also recommend extraction because wisdom teeth, being so far back in the mouth, are really hard to take care of. They worry that wisdom teeth might not be cleaned properly and become infected.
  • May cause crowding – Some dentists worried that wisdom teeth coming in will crowd the other teeth in the mouth. This is especially concerning for those who already have a crowded mouth. Many people have crowded mouths due to a modern diet low in nutrients.
  • Easier on young people – Some theorize that recovery may be easier for younger people and that it’s best to do it when the teeth are just emerging and roots haven’t set in.

Additionally, wisdom teeth aren’t essential (we can live without them), so many dentists see no drawback to extraction on a routine basis. With general and local anesthesia available, the procedure seems fairly benign.

The Problem With Wisdom Tooth Extraction

So you knew I was getting to this, right?

Any surgery, including wisdom tooth extraction, should be taken very seriously. General anesthesia, though used often without incident, is still not risk-free. Even local anesthetic has some risks.

Surgery should only be performed when the risks of not doing it are higher than the risk of doing it. Unnecessary medical procedures subject the body to unnecessary trauma.

Here are some of the risks associated with routine wisdom tooth extraction:

Risk of Cavitation

A cavitation is a hole in the jaw bone surrounded by dead or decaying tissue. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if the surgeon didn’t properly clean the socket or completely remove the periodontal ligament that attaches the tooth to the underlying bone. Cavitation can happen from other dental procedures but happens most often from extraction.

Cavitation isn’t a rare occurrence with wisdom tooth extraction. According to, one study found that 88 percent of patients who had a wisdom tooth extracted ended up with cavitation.

Risk of Infection and Other Complications

When a cavitation forms, the risk of infection is much greater. Toxins, the byproducts of the metabolic process of the bacteria, enter the bloodstream and make their way to other parts of the body. Even mainstream medical and dental professionals are taking the connection between oral health and overall health very seriously. According to WebMD, poor oral health can lead to issues such as

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • osteoporosis
  • arthritis
  • lung conditions
  • obesity
  • poor birth outcome (for babies of women with oral health issues)

Additionally, dry socket is another concern. Dry socket happens when the blood clot over the extraction site loosens and falls off early. Then bacteria can enter the site and cause pain and infection. A second surgery may be necessary to deal with dry socket.


Paresthesia (permanent numbness of the lips or tongue) is a very real concern with wisdom tooth extraction. The chances of paresthesia vary based on the positioning of the tooth. But the worst case scenario (a tooth in the worst position) the risk of paresthesia is 6.8 percent. Other teeth in less severe positions obviously cause a lower rate of paresthesia from anesthesia.

Paresthesia can range from mild (general numbness/tingling) to severe (shooting pain). The possibility of paresthesia is even more concerning when you consider that 95 percent of extracted teeth did not pose a problem in the first place, as Dr. Jay Friedman argues in a 2007 American Journal of Public Health article.

Can You Keep Your Wisdom Teeth?

Now that we’ve talked about the risks of surgery, what are the risks of keeping your third molars? Here are some considerations to weigh:

Science Doesn’t Support Removal as a Preventative Measure

Dr. Friedman (cited above) continues to say in the same medical journal article that there is no evidence that removal of wisdom teeth reduces pathology. Most wisdom teeth (impacted or not) do not become infected.

Do Not Cause Crowding

As mentioned earlier, our modern diets of low nutrient foods make crowding in the mouth a concern for many people. So, it seems to make sense not to allow more teeth to enter an already crowded space. But science doesn’t support this idea. Wisdom teeth do not cause other teeth to crowd according to a 1992 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The author argues that by the time they grow in, wisdom teeth are simply not forceful enough to move a whole row of teeth that are already strongly rooted. So whether there is enough room for wisdom teeth shouldn’t play a big part in the decision to take them out.

Risk of Complication Does Not Increase with Age

Conventional wisdom says that the chances of complications from wisdom tooth extraction gets higher with age. This is true to a certain extent (complications are lower in 12 to 24-year-olds than 24 to 34-year-olds).

In other words, many people are being subjected to moderate risk of complications to avoid the high risk of complication in a few that need the surgery between ages 24 and 35. What is not being considered in this school of thought is that the risk of complication is zero for those who don’t have the surgery.

When to Consider a Wisdom Tooth Extraction

While unnecessary wisdom tooth extraction is not safe, there are times when removal is the best and safest option. Here are some of the reasons wisdom tooth extraction may become necessary:

  • impaction (though some impacted teeth are okay to leave alone)
  • recurrent gum infection
  • gum disease
  • severe tooth decay
  • abscesses, cysts, or tumors
  • damage to nearby teeth and bone

The best way to know if you or your child are in need of wisdom tooth extraction is to discuss with a biological dentist, who will help you decide if extraction is necessary.

What If Removal Is Necessary?

Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist known for his work in studying the effects of nutrition on dental health, has a protocol for extraction that reduces the risk of complications and helps boost healing. A biological dentist should be knowledgeable in Dr. Price’s protocol (or may have his own similar protocol) but you can ask questions to make sure when at the interview.

Dr. Weston A. Price’s Protocol

To get the best outcome from oral surgery, Dr. Price recommends the following before the surgery:

  • Remove metals from the mouth pre-surgery (possibly including root canals).
  • Optimize liver and kidney function and pathways.
  • If ill from the tooth, the patient should take homeopathic remedies for a month before surgery.
  • Assess and treat tonsil issues (Dr. Price believes that in some cases wisdom tooth issues stem from tonsil issues).
  • Make sure there is enough protein in the diet for optimal healing.

After surgery, Dr. Price recommends patients do the following:

  • Take at least 3 to 5 days before returning to normal activity to heal and avoid dry socket.
  • Use a therapeutic laser for better healing and to reduce the use of prescription pain medications.
  • Use homeopathic remedies for healing.
  • Treat the surgical site with one to two vials of mineral-rich Quinton Marine Sea Plasma for healing.
  • Eat (drink) healing bone broths especially during the first day or two when the site is still open. This helps avoid food particles from solid foods getting stuck in the wound.

Your biological dentist/oral surgeon may have a different protocol than this one that may include ice packs, salt water rinses, and pain medications. But the important part is to take very close care of the surgical site to reduce complications.

Wisdom Tooth Removal – Is It Safe?

If you or your child have been told you need wisdom teeth removal it may be worthwhile to get a second opinion. A biological dentist or oral surgeon can help you navigate the risks and benefits of your specific situation.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Steven Lin, who is a Board accredited dentist trained at the University of Sydney. With a background in biomedical science, he is a passionate whole-health advocate, focusing on the link between nutrition and dental health. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or dentist.

Did you have your wisdom teeth out? What was your experience?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


25 responses to “Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Worth the Risk?”

  1. Sheryl Avatar

    Do you have a biological dentist whom you trust? I have been to many of them – actually all of them – in my area and they are either unskilled or dishonest. I have a really good conventional dentist now; however, I would like to have a biological dentist ready as a back-up in case I need a second opinion or need any serious work done. I would travel anywhere in that case.

  2. Sherry Tallant Avatar
    Sherry Tallant

    Don’t wait! Get them done in your 20’s. Healing is much easier then.

    I was always told “if your wisdom teeth aren’t bothering you then you don’t need to have them removed”. Fast forward to when I was 35 (2018) and went to see my dentist for routine cleaning. He said my X-ray showed that I had an erupting wisdom tooth. I went to see an oral surgeon who told me that it was one of my wisdom teeth that had erupted and it needed to be removed. When I asked him about just removing all 4 of them he convinced me there was too much risk and that I only needed to have the one removed. Fast forward to 2020 when I started experiencing jaw and ear pain. Went to see my dentist who said it was my wisdom teeth crowding my molars that was causing my jaw/ ear pain. Went back to the same oral surgeon who AGAIN recommended that I only have the one tooth that was crowded removed. I told him that my family dentist recommends I have all 3 remaining wisdom teeth removed, and he agreed to do the surgery. It took me 5 days to feel like I could return to work. Of course this may have been because healing time is not as swift when you are close to 40 vs in your 20’s, or it
    Could have been because I had an allergic reaction to the painkiller that was prescribed post surgery. Regardless- my jaw and ear pain is now completely gone and I have healed. I surely wish someone had recommended that I get them removed when I was 20.

  3. Bucky Avatar

    I was told I needed all my wisdom teeth removed twenty years ago when I was in high school. The top ones were straight and lined up with my other teeth, but the bottom ones were horizontal and under the gums (I think that means they’re impacted). I don’t know if my parents thought it was a scam or just didn’t want to pay for it, but I didn’t have the surgery.
    I’d forgotten all about them until I saw a dentist a couple days ago who said I needed all of them removed. The top ones are still straight, and the bottoms are still impacted, but the dentist said there’s a cyst next to one of the bottom ones. I’ve never had any pain from them, though. Is there any way to get rid of the cyst without removing the teeth? How dangerous is a cyst? I’ve been reading about wisdom teeth removal, and I’m hesitant to have the surgery because of the possible side effects like permanent lip or tongue numbness.

  4. Chesna Avatar

    I had all four wisdom teeth removed when I was 21. It was extremely painful healing process for the first few days. I was given narcotics which I took, I was a college student and I didn’t really think twice about what the dentist told me. My lower right molar came in impacted and my jaw swelled up. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to remove one or all, it was just a given that all would be taken out. Because I was low income I was not given the option of being put under which I am glad I did not. I still have swelling and tenderness in my right impacted molar , i am 44. now that I know more about holistic health the more I wished I had only treated my impacted molar first by supporting my immune system not by having it removed because I do believe it affects your entire system. I initially got autoimmune symptoms when I had my amalgam fillings removed incorrectly. When I first started telling people my theory of how I felt like this removal was one of the major puzzle pieces to my autoimmune all doctors and dentists looked at me like I was crazy but I have since found more people that have had this happen to them. Dentistry is extremely toxic and the patient should research what the dentist recommends and ask questions always. I also read ramiel nagels book heal tooth decay. It’s a very informative book based on Weston prices experience in Dentistry. I’m very glad that you posted all of this information about Dentistry it’s important that people are informed because the general dentist will not offer any information and you’ll be the one left sick unfortunately. I am now looking into seeing how to clean out my wisdom tooth that still bothers me I’m sure it has something to do with my autoimmune. The teeth are connected to every organ in your body through an electrical system. A good video to watch is Jerry Tennant on YouTube. Good luck!

  5. Meg Avatar

    I had my wisdom teeth removed 13 years ago and I have permanent numbness in my lower lip. It feels rubbery like when you have novacaine. It’s extremely frustrating because I bite it all the time and before I was used to it I would drool (not cool as a high schooler!)

  6. Trish Avatar

    I was lucky to listen to a dental summit where a dentist said to avoid epinephrine for wisdom teeth removal and also remove the ligaments on each tooth. Said it could cause problems later, since epinephrine stops the flow of blood too long, and cells start dying. I argued with my son’s oral surgeon, and he finally agreed not to use it (which my son had also agreed not to take). I was so scared I was going to cause him pain, which that was what the oral surgeon kept telling me, when in fact he had very little pain after the operation. My son did not even need the narcotics, and it was hard for him not to want to eat normal right away, since it did not hurt much (unless the gums themselves were touched). Ask for carbocaine or Citanest Plain instead. He should never have to deal with future cavitations from wisdom teeth removal, since he avoided the epinephrine and I also made sure they removed the tooth ligaments. Don’t necessarily believe them that it will cause more pain without epinephrine. His friends were jealous!!!

  7. Jeannie Avatar

    I’m normally on the same page as you with most things but I would disagree with some of this – particularly that wisdom teeth cannot cause crowding. My teeth were perfectly straight. I never had braces and had room for all of my regular teeth to grow. In my early 20’s all four of my wisdom teeth slowly started growing in. They grew in perfectly straight so it was not recommended for me to take them out. Flash forward to a few years after (yes it took that long for them to completely grow in) and they had pushed my regular teeth together in the front and caused crowding. Two of my front teeth were overlapping and causing problems. I decided to have all 4 of them removed to prevent further problems and for esthetics.

    The idea that they could cause overcrowding isn’t so far fetched. If you think of it from a physics point of view ie newtons cradle where the force and momentum is transferred enough to the move the ball on the other end. It makes sense. And unfortunaty I was proof of it. My 2nd dentist and a specialist confirmed to me that this does absolutely happen. My first dentist told me this wasn’t possible and he also told me that removing them would not make the crowded-ness go away. In his words “the teeth aren’t going to just march back in place.” Well 5 years after removal one of my overlapping teeth has indeed marched itself back in place without braces, retainers or anything. And the other is slowly on its way.

    1. Nicole Avatar

      I agree with this. Also, there are other potential issues related to crowding – wisdom teeth can encroach on nerves and cause serious damage. I typically enjoy your articles but I think you should avoid posting on medical-related topics if you have no formal training in the area.

  8. Lina Avatar

    I had mine removed when I was 20, and had jaw pain/tightness for at least two years after. I asked my dentist about it and they acted like it wasn’t an issue, and there’s nothing you can do and it’d go away with time. It did eventually go away for the most part, but occasionally I’ll get it again off and on, 13 years later.
    Now I wonder what it was…….anyone else experience this?

    1. Jenn Avatar

      I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed a couple years ago as they caused my inner cheek to be pinched between them when I closed my mouth or chewed. My bottom wisdom teeth both had 3 roots each (most have only two) which made them more difficult to remove. My mouth is rather small and it was difficult for the dentist to get them out. It took much longer and put a lot of stress on my jaw, having to keep my mouth open so wide for so long, plus the amount of pressure being applied to remove the teeth. Long story short a few very painful days later I discovered that my jaw had been pushed out of alignment. A few adjustments from my chiropractor (also painful) and I was just fine.

  9. Adelaide Avatar

    I have to say that I only wish my dentist had been more proactive in informing me about wisdom teeth removal. As a young adult I began asking them if their x-rays were showing that I needed my wisdom teeth removed. The response was, “You can if you want to.” Who wants surgery just for fun? And furthermore, why do anything if there is no problem? So, of course, I did not do anything. I asked at least once or twice more on subsequent visits since I know I have a smaller mouth, just to be sure I wasn’t overlooking a health issue, and I received the same response. Finally, I was told to get them removed b/c they were severely impacted. They had actually shifted my once straight teeth to some pretty bad crookedness at least on the bottom. I only wish they would have had the sense to tell me to get them removed before the problems happened. I had all 4 of them out at once.

  10. Jessica Avatar

    I had my bottom wisdom teeth out when I was 22. They were impacted, and I got an infection in one of them. The top two weren’t impacted however, so I opted to leave them alone. They have since broken through slightly with no problems so far (I am 24).

  11. Gina Avatar

    I still have my wisdom teeth at 55. I like to say it’s because they gave me the wisdom to refuse to allow someone to yank out parts of my body for no reason at all, except maybe to help them pay off their student loans. My wisdom teeth grew in straight and properly positioned and have never been impacted, infected, or caused any other problem.

    1. Betty Grey Avatar
      Betty Grey

      The best thing I ever did was get my wisdom teeth removed when I was 29 in 1992 (I am 56 now.) It could not have comer too soon but they should have been removed earlier when they first came through. as they were nothing but problems. They had to come out as they were very close to my cheeks and kept on gutting them and were also pushing against my other teeth,making them hurt. The dentist took them out in his sugary but not all at once as that would have been too painful. Extractions hurt like hell after the injection has worn off more so wisdom teeth ones.

      My first top left wisdom tooth the dentist removed as an emergency because it had broken and was cutting into my cheeks.
      Then I went back to the dentist and he removed the bottom left wisdom tooth then my top right and bottom right in different appointments after the other extractions healed. I had all my 4 wisdom teeth out and have never regretted it.

      Wisdom teeth case a lot of problems I don’t know why we had them. Most are better extracted as they cannot be filled and also cause a lot of pain and discomfort for most people including me.
      I am glad they are gone.

  12. Sam Avatar

    Thanks for posting this research, my cousin (mother of one) passed away after having a routine wisdom teeth removal procedure and have thought about whether or not it was necessary for my own children now that I’m older but haven’t found a lot of information on the topic. That and tonsillectomy’s seemed to be quite common among the medical field. Thanks for passing along all your knowledge on the subjects!

  13. Catherine Avatar

    Yes, I did have my wisdom teeth removed when I was 21. I developed an infection in the gum because none of the teeth could break through completely. I am a very petite person and there was literally no more room for those wisdom teeth to come through (none of them did!). Even without the wisdom teeth, my bottom teeth overlap a bit. When I get an impression done, the dentist has to use a child’s impression tray because the adult tray will not fit in my mouth.

    The only issue I had was that, a few hours after I got home, the sutures did not stop bleeding completely. I called the dentist’s office and they said to take two dampened tea bags and put them at the back of my teeth, over the surgery site. It worked like a charm! The bleeding stopped almost immediately. The tannins in the tea apparently helped the blood to clot.

  14. Theresa Avatar

    When I was 22 I had a wisdom tooth that became infected and it locked my mouth for several days until the antibiotics took care of the infection. The wisdom tooth was growing horizontally and was fused to my molar. I had it removed and the dentist recommended taking the other 3 out as well, which I agreed to. I have never had any issue since having them removed. My son, from about 15 to 19 years old had terrible and frequent migraines. The doctors told us it was hormonal. His wisdom teeth had begun crowding his other teeth so we had them removed and he never had another migraine.

  15. Amber Avatar

    Oh, if I could go back in time! There’s so many things I would do differently. I just didn’t know, and have always trusted the medical recommendations. Sigh. How do I know if I have cavitations?
    Also, I’m in the process of learning about how to have my two amalgam fillings removed. Do you have a mercury detox protocol that you recommend? There are so many out there!

  16. Adavi Avatar

    Are you sure Dr. Weston Price recommends therapeutic lasers? I’m pretty sure that was before his time.

  17. Stephanie Avatar

    Still have my wisdom teeth. I’m going to be 40 in May and I’ve never had issues. They never fully erupted, so they are also not visible, but even with one just off the nerve (thought they’d have to cut that one out eventually), they haven’t moved since x-rays when I was 28 or so.

    1. Angie Avatar

      Stephanie, are your wisdom teeth impacted? I understand they never fully erupted. 🙂

  18. JMSalinas Avatar

    What if you never develop a matching set (I only had 2 lower wisdom teeth and no uppers)? would that be a reason for extraction or not?

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