Those Pesky Wisdom Teeth!

The dental evaluation for missionary candidates requires certification from your dentist that “you will be free of dental problems during the next two years (assuming proper oral hygiene is practiced)”1. I remember when the time came for me to start planning to serve a mission, one of the first things my mom decided that we needed to do was get my wisdom teeth taken out. Which, of course, was one of the last things I wanted to do, especially since my wisdom teeth had grown in completely normally. I was one of those lucky few that never had their wisdom teeth grow in sideways or any of the other weird ways they can come in. But my mom was determined, and the dentist agreed with her that I should have the wisdom teeth removed.
My dentist’s logic was this: “Since they are so far back in the mouth, they are hard to reach while brushing, and it would be very easy for them to get cavities or other types of infections. Those cavities would then very easily spread to other teeth.” I was still skeptical, but it was obvious that I had no choice.
So, one spring afternoon, my mom drove me to the specialist’s office where I would get my wisdom teeth removed. They injected an IV into my arm that contained some mix of drugs that would supposedly knock me out. The last thing I remember is thinking, “I don’t think the IV stuff is working…” and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on a cot in another room.

I was lucky as far as post-wisdom-teeth-removal side effects were concerned. I had no crazy conversations like you’ve probably seen in the countless “After the Dentist” YouTube videos. I never threw up, and my cheeks didn’t swell very much at all (possibly helped by our stop for ice cream on the way home). Of course, other friends were not as fortunate, and some had swollen cheeks that lasted for several days.
In the end, though, I am glad I had my wisdom teeth taken out before I left for my mission. A dental evaluation is required before you submit your mission papers, and the Mission Department asks that “all orthodontic work should be completed before entering the MTC,”2 which could include having wisdom teeth removed. Your dentist will know what is the best choice for your individual situation. In my case, the dentist determined that I should have them removed even though they had entered normally.
I was certainly glad about that choice after receiving a mission call to serve in a third-world country. If I had gotten a tooth infection while serving my mission, it would have been much more difficult to resolve. Besides being a much bigger hassle because of more limited medical facilities, I would have lost valuable time when I could have been serving the Lord. And while it’s no guarantee that leaving my wisdom teeth in would have caused a tooth infection, getting them removed before the mission certainly helped ensure that it wouldn’t become an issue.

1. http://www.mormonmissionprep.com/call-process/mission-application-form/
2. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705377929/The-physical-preparation-for-missionary-work.html?pg=all

For more articles on preparing for a mission, please visit:
Need to buy luggage?
The Beat of a Missionary
Girlfriends (or Boyfriends) and the Mission