WHAT ARE WISDOM TEETH?

From the time you were born to adolescence, teeth are forming and erupt in stages.  People develop two sets of teeth during their life; a set of primary or “baby” teeth and permanent or “adult” teeth.  Permanent teeth typically begin to erupt between the ages of 6 and 12.  The last of the permanent teeth to appear are the third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth.  While their formation can begin as early as eight years of age, their development is usually completed between the ages of 16 and 21.  This is a time traditionally associated with the onset of maturity and the attainment of wisdom, also known as the “age of wisdom.”

Most people usually develop four wisdom teeth that are located in the back of your mouth on both sides of the upper and lower jaw.  It is not uncommon for some people to get less than four wisdom teeth, and some to actually get more.  On rare occasions, some people are lucky to never develop any wisdom teeth at all.  How they emerge can differ between individuals.  If sufficient room is present and no obstacles block these teeth, they may erupt.  Most often the jaw is too small to accommodate the eruption of wisdom teeth.  When inadequate space prevents the teeth from fully erupting into proper position, it will usually result in the recommendation of their removal.

We recommend a consultation and panoramic x-ray during the teenage years to determine any present or potential problems.  The younger the patient, the softer the jaw bone, making their removal easier than in older patients.  A number of possible problems can occur by ignoring your wisdom teeth including; pain and discomfort, gum inflammation, infection, cyst formation, possible crowding or damage to adjacent teeth.  Early intervention before the onset of symptoms and complete root development is recommended to reduce the potential for problems and surgical risks.

So, what are wisdom teeth?  They have nothing to do with you growing wiser – just an indication you are growing up.

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