Wisdom teeth are really just your third molars, located in the very back of your tooth arch and are the last of your adult teeth to erupt. They most commonly erupt between the ages of 17 and 20. Most people have them, but for some people, these third molars simply do not develop. Some patients might have more than one set of wisdom teeth! Only an x-ray can reveal the complete story.
A high number of patients who possess wisdom teeth don’t know they have them because the teeth are impacted, or stuck underneath already erupted teeth, as opposed to erupting normally through the gums. This is when wisdom teeth become problematic.
The patient’s jaw may be too small to allow for the full eruption of the wisdom tooth, leading to it becoming stuck in the jaw, pushing at other teeth, causing pain and shifting of the teeth. The tooth might be able to erupt partially, triggering a flap of gum tissue to develop over the tooth, trapping bacteria and germs which can lead to serious infection.
Sometimes wisdom teeth come in at strange angles, facing sideways or backward, or they develop a serious infection and damage the surrounding teeth. They can also lead to the development of a cyst or cause damage to the jawbone.
If your dentist has told you that you need to have your wisdom teeth out, it’s a good idea to listen and to follow that advice. Removing problematic wisdom teeth can reduce crowding in the mouth, infection in the gums or tooth decay in the wisdom tooth or in the surrounding teeth.
The younger you are when you have your wisdom teeth removed, the easier it is to recover. Ask your dentist to learn more about wisdom teeth and about your particular needs as a patient.
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