Wisdom teeth usually do not appear in the mouth until you become an adult, usually between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age. Most adults have all four wisdom teeth, although some people may have only two and others may never develop any wisdom teeth.
Why do Wisdom Teeth exist?
The rest of your adult teeth are already set in the jaw by the time you reach adulthood, and there is often little or no room left for the wisdom teeth to emerge at the back of the mouth. As a result, the wisdom teeth may crowd the other teeth and cause damage.
Centuries ago, the human diet consisted of tough foods that were difficult to chew. The resulting wear on the teeth caused tooth loss. When teeth were lost, there was room for additional molars to grow in the back of the mouth, and there was also a need for replacement molars. In modern society, our diet consists of soft foods so the wear and tear on the teeth is less than in early times. We also have the ability to maintain proper Oral Hygiene so teeth are preserved. When wisdom teeth emerge, there is often insufficient room in the mouth to accommodate them.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth, where they are partially or fully covered with skin, are problematic and susceptible to pain and often become infected or diseased. When wisdom teeth are impacted, most dentists recommend they be removed as a precautionary procedure to avoid future complications.
The types of problems that can develop from impacted wisdom teeth include pain, headaches, infection, bleeding and swollen gums, a swollen jaw line, foul smelling breath, and a repulsive taste in the mouth.
When you visit your dentist for regular six-month checkups, your dentist will be able to detect changes in your mouth, and by using x-rays he can determine if wisdom teeth are present that have not yet broken the surface. Although some individuals grow wisdom teeth without any complications, they are often problematic.
When should you see your dentist?
You should visit your dentist if you have pain or swelling in the back of your jaw, behind your back molars. This pain is often indicative of wisdom teeth that may be impacted because they do not have room to emerge fully. Wisdom teeth that are crowded often do not grow straight and may push into the adjacent molars, grow towards the back of the mouth, or grow at strange angles. At times, wisdom teeth may remain in the jawbone and never fully emerge through the surface of the gum.
Wisdom teeth complications:
Wisdom teeth can damage the other permanent adult teeth in your mouth. If the wisdom teeth grow too closely to the molars, the other teeth may become infected, misaligned and require orthodontic procedures to straighten your teeth and correct the bite.
Cysts may develop when fluid builds up in the sac that surrounds the wisdom teeth in the jawbone. If a cyst develops, it can damage the nerves, teeth, and jawbone. On rare occasions a tumor will result. Removing the tumor and other damaged tissue and bone is a complicated and painful procedure.
Wisdom teeth are difficult to clean due to their location at the back of the mouth. They are susceptible to tooth decay if food becomes trapped between the gum line and the tooth. Gum disease, called pericoronitis, can also result from wisdom teeth that are improperly cleaned, especially when they are partially impacted.
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