Wisdom teeth are also called third molars. Third molars typically come in (erupt into the mouth) between the ages of 17-25 years. However the number of third molars that may erupt varies from 0-4.
Third Molar Fun Facts
- Third molars helped our ancestors grind plant tissue.
- The skulls of our ancestors had larger jaws that would allow them to hold more teeth.
- As human diets have changed, smaller jaws have evolved. This trend in decreasing jaw size has made it impossible for most third molars to erupt into the mouth and be properly cared for.
Wisdom teeth that are in a good position to erupt completely usually don’t cause any problems. However, if your mouth doesn’t have enough space for the teeth to completely erupt then a number of problems can occur:
- The teeth may only partially erupt leading to challenges in cleaning and maintaining.
- The teeth may become impacted in the jaw
- Tooth decay or gum disease may develop from not being able to clean the teeth completely
- Damage to the supporting bone and ligaments adjacent teeth may occur from the unerupted position of the wisdom tooth.
The best way to determine the position of the third molars is with a panoramic x-ray at your dentist’s office. If necessary, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon for a consultation about removing the teeth.
Wisdom teeth are usually removed before the age of 21. The older the age of the patient, the move likely for complications from the removal of the teeth such as infection, nerve damage, and dry sockets. Dry sockets occur when the blood clot that formed to protect the nerve and bone becomes dislodged. The area is then exposed to air, bacteria, and food which can cause very severe pain.