Is Keeping Wisdom Teeth Wise?

Dentist Nancy Rosen
CBS/The Early Show
It may not be smart to retain your wisdom teeth, new research indicates.

Wisdom teeth are the molars that are farthest back in your mouth, Dr. Nancy Rosen told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. They come in between the ages of 17 and 25.

They're called "wisdom teeth" because people are said to get wiser during that time.

Smith asked Rosen, his personal dentist, why she hasn't suggested he have his wisdom teeth removed.

"Yours are fully erupted," she said, "meaning they are aligned, they are above the gum tissue, and they are clean as a whistle. So you can keep them."

But if they're not fully erupted, Rosen said, it can be a problem. "It can cause an opening around the tooth and bacteria can get around the tooth, cause swelling, infection, inflammation, and a lot of pain."

According to new research, Rosen says, if you can't keep wisdom teeth clean, "a lot of plaque is going to accumulate around them. This is going to cause infection, gum and bone disease, and this can increase the risk of premature birth or it can complicate other health problems, like heart problems or diabetes."

She advises asking your dentist whether you should have your wisdom teeth removed. "They just need to take an X-ray and evaluate the position and if there is any decay, or if you're able to keep them clean."

Removing them can be a pain. Literally.

"I'm not going to lie," Rosen said. "It is definitely a little uncomfortable. But I think if you need to have them taken out, the pros outweigh the cons."