Information and Commonly Asked Questions About Wisdom Teeth

Information About Your Wisdom Teeth

A female patient opens wide while a male dentist cleans her teeth.
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Do you know someone who has had to have their wisdom teeth removed? Have you had them removed yourself? Many individuals have to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their life, but why? 

The Third Molars

The third molars, known simply as your wisdom teeth, are the last permanent teeth to erupt into your mouth. Wisdom teeth typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 years old.

Although the exact rationale behind the term "wisdom teeth" is unknown, it is thought that the third molars were given the name "wisdom teeth" because they erupt at a time when a child becomes wiser -- as they enter adulthood.

The average person will develop four wisdom teeth, but that is not always the case for all individuals. Many people develop supernumerary (extra) wisdom teeth, while some lucky individuals fail to develop some or all of their wisdom teeth altogether. 

Typically, the average human mouth can only comfortably hold 28 of the 32 teeth that we are predisposed to have. Since the wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth to emerge, there is often little room or space left to accommodate their size and anatomy, which often causes the wisdom teeth to either:

  • Become impacted under the gum tissue and bone
  • Partially erupt into the mouth, resulting in only part of the tooth exposed above the gumline
  • Fully erupt into the mouth in an undesirable position -- usually tilting forward, pushing on the tooth in front of it.

Removal 

The eruption of the wisdom teeth can be quite painful as they push through the gum. The positioning of wisdom teeth when they emerge can impact the positioning of other surrounding, already established teeth, which is why wisdom teeth are often removed.

It is quite possible that each one of your wisdom teeth will erupt differently from one another, for example you could have only one impacted wisdom tooth, and the rest could fully erupt.

During your regular dental check-up, your dentist may take a orthopantomogram x-ray, also known as a panorex, to diagnose whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed.

This x-ray gives the dentist a clear view of the area directly around the wisdom teeth, to determine the type of extraction necessary for each individual wisdom tooth. When the dentist discovers a reason for you to have your wisdom teeth removed he will access the position of the wisdom teeth and how each root is formed. Depending on his findings, your dentist will make the decision to preform the wisdom teeth extractions for you, or refer you to see an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon for your wisdom teeth extractions.

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