The term wisdom teeth dates back to at least 1848 (some accounts say 1668) and is believed to result from the fact that these teeth come into your mouth somewhere between the ages of 17 and 25. This age range corresponds to adulthood when you’re presumed to be wiser than you were and to college age, a time when you’re seeking wisdom.
Wisdom teeth are actually molars. Your dentist calls them third molars (or thirds) because they are the third tooth of this type in your mouth. Your first molars come in behind your last baby tooth at around age 6 and your second molars come in around age 12 behind the first molars.
As you can imagine, by the time you get to your wisdom teeth, they’re pretty far back in your mouth! If you lived in the Stone Age, your diet would consist mainly of food that is tougher to chew. Your jaw would be longer and stronger to process this type of diet and you would have room for your wisdom teeth. Or if you lived at a time when people did not know how to care for their teeth properly, you might lose some of your other teeth before adulthood, creating space for your wisdom teeth to erupt and serve as additional teeth for chewing and grinding your food.
Today, there are some people who have enough room for their wisdom teeth to come in to the mouth, but even for these people, the teeth are difficult to clean and they often develop cavities or gum disease. Many more people do not have enough room so their wisdom teeth either only partly come in (partial eruption) or fail to come through the gumline at all (your dentist may call these impacted teeth).
Should you have your wisdom teeth out? You should consult your dentist since each situation is unique. In general, dentists often recommend removal when wisdom teeth are:
• trapped under the gumline and not likely to erupt on their own (impacted)
• causing problems or potentially problematic (This includes items like infected teeth or gums, pain, bad breath, cysts connected to or around the teeth and other pathology.)
• in a position where they rub or cause damage to other teeth or to your tissues. For those of you who have had braces, this is often why your orthodontist will recommend that you have your wisdom teeth removed.
When should you have your wisdom teeth out? Though it’s tempting to wait until your wisdom teeth bother you to have them out, there are some benefits to having them out while you are younger. Your jawbone gets more rigid as you age. Young adults have bone that gives a little and this makes removing the tooth less traumatic. Healing also occurs at a quicker pace when you’re younger.
Though I don't remove wisdom teeth, if you’re having a problem with your wisdom teeth and don’t have a dentist, I invite you to contact my office for a consultation. Please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form on my website at www.drjrobb.com