Wisdom teeth are the third molars that typically develop and emerge at the back of the mouth. This happens for most people in their late teenage years or early adulthood. Typically you’ll develop your wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25.
Why Do We Get Wisdom Teeth?
Anthropologists believe that our early ancestors had larger jaws and more teeth than modern humans. Wisdom teeth likely allowed for them to eat the tough, fibrous foods that were heavy in their diets — such as roots and nuts. As our diets evolved, however, our jaws became smaller. Despite this, our bodies still produce the same number of teeth.
It’s believed that the name “wisdom teeth” comes from the fact that these teeth typically appear later in life. Between 17 and 25 it is believed that a person is has gained more wisdom.
Learn more about the history of wisdom teeth here.
Does Everyone Get There Wisdom Teeth?
No, not everyone gets wisdom teeth. While it’s common, it is estimated that around 20% to 25% of people do not develop them at all. The absence of wisdom teeth is often hereditary, meaning that if one or both parents did not have them — their children are less likely to develop them as well.
Furthermore, some people may have wisdom teeth that develop but never fully emerge from the gum-line, resulting in them becoming impacted. This can cause pain, swelling, and other issues.
It’s important to note that not all people who develop wisdom teeth will require extraction. Some people may have enough space in their mouths for them to grow in properly without causing any problems. While others may only need to have one or two wisdom teeth removed instead of all four. Ultimately, the decision to remove them will depend on a variety of factors. These factors include the individual’s oral health, the positioning of the teeth, and the potential for future problems.
How do I Know Whether I Have Wisdom Teeth?
Some common symptoms that may indicate the presence of wisdom teeth include:
Pain or discomfort in the back of the mouth, gums, or jawbone.
Swelling, redness, or tenderness in the gums or jaw.
Difficulty opening the mouth or chewing.
Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth.
Headaches or earaches.
Crowding or shifting of nearby teeth.
Do I Need to Get Them Removed?
The timing for wisdom teeth removal varies depending on the individual case, but there are some general guidelines to follow. In general, they should be removed if they are causing pain, infection, or damage to other teeth. Additionally, many dentists recommend removing them before they can cause future problems.
Here are some general recommendations for when to get your wisdom teeth removed:
Before age 25: Most dentists and oral surgeons recommend removing wisdom teeth before the age of 25. Before 25, the roots of the teeth are not fully formed and the bone is less dense — making the procedure less risky.
When problems arise: If you experience pain, swelling, infection, or other problems related to your wisdom teeth, you may need to have them removed regardless of your age.
As a preventative measure: Some dentists and oral surgeons recommend removing wisdom teeth even if they are not causing problems. This is recommended as a preventative measure to avoid future problems such as decay, gum disease, or damage to other teeth.
Ultimately, the decision to remove wisdom teeth will depend on a variety of factors. These factors include an individual’s age, oral health, and the positioning of the teeth. If you’re unsure whether your wisdom teeth need to be removed, consult with your dentist for an evaluation.
What is the Removal Process? What Should I Expect?
The wisdom tooth removal process typically involves the following steps:
Anesthesia: Before the procedure, the dentist or oral surgeon will administer a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. In some cases, general anesthesia may be used to put the patient to sleep during the procedure.
Incision: Once the area is numb, the dentist will make a small incision in the gum tissue to expose the tooth and the surrounding bone.
Tooth removal: Using specialized tools, the dentist will carefully loosen the tooth from the surrounding bone and gum tissue. If the tooth is impacted or difficult to remove, it may be divided into smaller pieces to make removal easier.
Cleaning and suturing: After the tooth is removed, the dentist will clean the socket to remove any debris or infected tissue. The socket may be packed with gauze to help control bleeding, and stitches may be used to close the incision.
Recovery: After the procedure, the patient will be given instructions on how to care for the area and manage any pain or swelling. It’s important to follow these instructions carefully to promote proper healing and minimize the risk of complications.