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Wisdom teeth are the most misunderstood teeth. While the average person knows what to expect with their other teeth, many of them have lots of questions about their wisdom teeth. Some of the common questions people ask are, what are wisdom teeth, why are they called wisdom teeth, at what age should we get a wisdom tooth, when is the right time for a wisdom tooth to be removed and what happens if you don’t get your wisdom tooth pulled out? Without clear, comprehensive answers to these questions, many people just think of wisdom teeth as a painful problem they will eventually face.
What Are Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars most people get. This third set of molars are the last teeth at the end of each quadrant of the mouth. The average person will get four molars during their lifetime. However, some people get one, two, three or none at all depending on their genetics. Your orthodontist can let you know if your wisdom teeth are emerging, whether they are healthy or not and what you can do to dull the pain they sometimes cause and help them to be as healthy as possible. Your orthodontist will also let you know if what further action need to be taken for your wisdom teeth to emerge properly.
Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth
The last molars are called ‘Wisdom Teeth’ because they appear so late in most people’s lives. Many people are in their twenties when the wisdom teeth finally begin to appear. These teeth are thought to be vestigial molars that were important to ancient humans with larger jaws and used to grind plant tissue more effectively. Some say the term wisdom teeth comes from the translation of the Latin phrase ‘dens sapientiae’. Both Plato and Hippocrates describe the teeth in their work. Aristotle refers to them as ‘wisdom teeth’ in his book ‘The History of Animals’ written in the 4th century B.C.
At What Age Should We Get A Wisdom Tooth
The average person begins to get wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 21. In some rare cases, wisdom teeth begin to pop out in children as young as age 12 or 13. The age at which the wisdom teeth begin to erupt seems to have a cultural component. Research has shown that people of African descent tend to get wisdom teeth earlier than people of Asian and Caucasian descent. The agenesis of wisdom teeth also differs among nations. Almost no Aboriginal Tasmanians have wisdom teeth, but almost 100% of indigenous Mexicans do. Generally, people worldwide have their wisdom teeth by age 25.
When Is The Right Time For A Wisdom Tooth To Be Removed
Several orthodontists may decide which and when wisdom teeth need to be removed. If they are impacted or the gum around them is swollen, infected or has cysts, the orthodontist may recommend removing the wisdom teeth. If the wisdom teeth are damaging other teeth, creating bite problems or sinus pressure, pain and congestion or an increase in cavities, orthodontists usually recommend removing them. Also, if the wisdom teeth are negatively impacting the jaw, can cause nerve damage or if it will prevent the patient’s braces, bridges, crowns or other dental work from being effective, the orthodontist will probably suggest the wisdom teeth be removed.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Your Wisdom Tooth Pulled Out
There are a variety of things that can happen if the wisdom tooth is not removed. In some cases, the wisdom teeth will simply grow out and take their place without any problem. However, sometimes an impacted wisdom tooth can be so sensitive it makes it painful to clean it and the adjacent teeth. Bacteria can then pile up and cavities can form in both the wisdom teeth and the other teeth close to it. The wisdom teeth can also shift the other teeth and disrupt the alignment and effectiveness of braces, bridges, crowns and other dental appliances. An analysis of the position of the teeth and the shape of the mouth will help the orthodontist decide if to remove the wisdom teeth surgically.
Not All Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Removed
When the orthodontist examines the wisdom teeth, they will determine whether or not they need to be removed. Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. If the teeth are healthy and properly aligned, they can be an asset of great value to the mouth. They can help to masticate tough foods with lots of fiber. This is the role they played for Paleolithic man and they can do the same thing for modern humans. However, if the wisdom teeth are misaligned, angled inward, outward, away from or towards the second molars, or positioned horizontally, they can crowd the adjacent teeth and damage them or the jawbone. They have to be removed.
Common Issues With Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth is enclosed within the jawbone or soft tissue and is only able to erupt through the gum partially, it is said to be impacted. Bacteria can get under the skin covering the partially erupted wisdom tooth and cause it to become infected. This can lead to pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, as well as general illness. Impacted teeth often become decayed and lead to gum disease. Plus, the awkward position and location of the wisdom teeth make brushing, flossing and other attempts to keep them clean challenging. As a result, wisdom teeth regularly have cavities that are near impossible to treat successfully and often leads to extraction.
Contact An Orthodontist
If you are having a problem with one or more of your wisdom teeth, contact an orthodontist right away. They can do a thorough analysis, including an x-ray, to evaluate your wisdom teeth’s condition and alignment. They can then decide if to extract the wisdom teeth to prevent more painful, complicated conditions from developing. It is easier to extract wisdom teeth early before the roots are fully developed and the bone becomes too dense. The earlier the extraction is performed the shorter the recovery time and healing will be. The orthodontist can also decide if the wisdom teeth are growing properly, have enough room and can be left in place.
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Do All Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Removed
Dr. Michael McDermott earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in both Chemistry and Biology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He followed his undergraduate degrees with a doctorate in dental surgery at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with highest distinction.
Dr. Mike then furthered his dental education by earning a masters and certificate in Orthodontics at the University of St. Louis in Missouri.