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What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are a major dental milestone for many people. This third set of molars usually appears between the ages of 17 and 21. They are called “wisdom teeth” because they come through at a more mature age than the first two sets of molars. Typically, people have four of them that emerge behind the second set of molars on both sides of the upper and lower jaw. 

Dental professionals speculate about the reason for and function of wisdom teeth. Unlike other teeth, which begin growing at or right after birth, they don’t appear in the jaw until the age of seven or so. Prehistorically, they may have been replacement teeth for other molars, which wore out more quickly due to an abrasive diet. Now that diets are safer for the teeth, there are no empty spots for them to fill. 

Problems That May Occur

As your wisdom teeth surface, it’s normal to experience some discomfort. Unfortunately, they can lead to problems when there isn’t enough space for them or they appear in the wrong position. Your dentist will carefully monitor you for issues, including:

  • Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the right position may trap food, which leads to cavity-causing bacteria.
  • Additionally, they may be difficult to floss between them and the molars next to them.
  • Partially-through teeth give bacteria a place to enter the gums, which can cause an infection. It may also lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness in the jaw.
  • If they don’t have proper space, they may crowd or damage neighboring teeth.
  • An impacted wisdom tooth — one that partially erupts or stays buried in the gum tissue or bone — can form a cyst on or near the tooth, which ultimately may damage the roots of nearby teeth or destroy the bone that supports your teeth.

Why Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed

Patients often get their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens or early 20s in an effort to prevent any potential issues. At this point, the roots have not secured to the jaw bone and are easier to remove. With age, there’s also a slightly higher risk of damage to the inferior alveolar nerve in the jaw. Plus, younger patients recover from sedation faster.

Let’s look at some reasons why wisdom teeth may need to be removed:

  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Cysts from impacted teeth
  • Tumors
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay

Additionally, after your dentist examines your mouth and takes an x-ray, they may recommend the removal of these teeth as part of your treatment plan for braces or other dental care.

If you keep your wisdom teeth, they will need to be regularly monitored by your dentist. As you age, the possibility of problems occurring increases.


Schedule an appointment at Maitland Ave. Smile Co. today!

Check out our Dental Blog to learn more about topics like pediatric dentistry, dental anxiety, and the impact of stress on oral health.