With age comes wisdom. Specifically, wisdom teeth.
Your mouth goes through many changes in your lifetime. One major dental milestone that usually takes place between the ages of 17 and 21 is the appearance of your third molars. Historically, these teeth have been called wisdom teeth because they come through at a more mature age.
When they come through correctly, healthy wisdom teeth can help you chew. It’s normal to feel a little discomfort when your wisdom teeth appear, but if you have pain, see your dentist immediately.
People normally have three permanent molars that develop in each quadrant of the mouth – upper, lower, right, and left. The first molars usually grow into the mouth at around six years of age. The second molars grow in at around age 12.
In many cases, wisdom teeth do not grow in properly, have a proper bite relationship, or have unhealthy gum tissue around them. Often, wisdom teeth improperly erupt or become impacted, requiring them to be extracted.
As your wisdom teeth make their way through your gums, your dentist will be monitoring your mouth for signs of the following:
- Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the right position can allow food to become trapped. That gives cavity-causing bacteria a place to grow.
- Wisdom teeth that haven’t come in properly, which can make it difficult to floss between the wisdom teeth and the molars next to them.
- Wisdom teeth that have partially come through can give bacteria a place to enter the gums and create a place for infection to occur. This may also lead to pain, swelling and stiffness in your jaw.
- Wisdom teeth that don’t have room to come through are thought by some to crowd or damage neighboring teeth.
- A wisdom tooth that is impacted can form a cyst on or near the impacted tooth. This could damage the roots of nearby teeth or destroy the bone that supports your teeth.
To avoid potential problems later in life, many dentists safely remove impacted wisdom teeth. Although they are like any other teeth, most people continue to have normal bites and well-functioning sets of teeth in their absence.
Symptoms of impacted teeth:
- Damage to neighboring teeth
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth)
Wisdom teeth are typically removed after the roots are formed, or at least two-thirds developed. This is usually in the adolescent years. Before making any decisions, your dentist will examine your mouth and take an x-ray. Together, you and your dentist can discuss the best course of treatment