Growing up, I always thought of my 18th birthday not as an entry into adulthood but as the time I may have my wisdom teeth removed. It was a silly thought, to be completely honest, but it was ingrained in my young mind because I had heard my parents saying that was around the age they had theirs removed.
And I didn’t even bother to think about what dental practice was like during their childhoods, what their dental health was compared to mine, and just overall misconceptions about wisdom teeth requiring removal in general.
It wasn’t until I had my wisdom teeth removed at 25 that I truly realized the whole rite of passage stigma connected to wisdom teeth removal may have been a ridiculous idea among our society (or at the very least something of my own imagination). It was a necessity for my dental health. Keyword: my.
The thing is, not everyone needs their wisdom teeth removed. Yes, a fair size of the population has impacted wisdom teeth that can cause crowding or significant pain if left unremoved. And another chunk of people may have one or more wisdom teeth start to rot because they’re left unbrushed or not very well brushed. I was one of those people.
But the reality is that a large section of the population actually have perfectly normal wisdom teeth that don’t need removed. Yet a lot of people think it’s something everyone does and have them removed anyway. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But I think it definitely contributes to the idea that it’s a thing everyone does as they become an adult.
The funny thing is, the process itself isn’t nearly as bad as I heard when I was a kid. My parents would tell me how they felt their teeth being drilled on, heard the cracks and pulls in the base of their skull, and the recovery was weeks long with only soups and ice cream to eat. I honestly dreaded the whole process just because of their stories.
Yet, like I stated before, that was in their time, not the current age of dentistry. Anesthesia is better. Local numbing is stronger. Dental tools are more advanced. Recovery still takes a few days, but for the most part, your sockets heal just fine if you heed the dentist’s advice and don’t overdue your eating the first week out of the office.
In all, wisdom teeth removal isn’t a rite of passage by any means. Sure, it’s a procedure that is needed for a decent amount of people. But it’s not the monster it’s made out to be when you’re a kid.