What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Posted .

Your “wisdom teeth” are the last set of molars to arrive–erupting after your incisors, canines, premolars and molars. The first molars erupt in your mouth by the time you are six, with the second molars coming in around age 12. Wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17-21, sitting behind the molars.

Nicknamed “wisdom teeth”, they come in when you are maturing into adulthood, in your late teens or early twenties, at the age when people mature and become wiser. Referred to “teeth of wisdom” since the 17th Century, the name was shortened to “wisdom teeth” in the 19th Century. Recent research shows that the brain continues to develop through the twenties, and the decision-making, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until age 25, so the name is actually apt!

It is possible to keep your wisdom teeth, and if they are not causing misalignment, can be left alone.  But because of where they are in the mouth–in the back where they are hard to reach, it can be difficult to brush and floss correctly. This makes them vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease as they can be a magnet for bacteria. If a wisdom tooth is partially erupted, it may be susceptible to pericoronitis. This is an infection where bacteria from food, plaque and debris is trapped in the space between the impacted tooth and the gums.

Because of the location of your wisdom teeth, they can also be misaligned, which crowds surrounding teeth, as well as the jawbone or nerves. Because of this, and their potential to cause pain and infection, your dentist may recommend removal, and the earlier the better. The earlier they are removed, the bone is not as dense and the roots not yet fully developed. Having your wisdom teeth removed when you are older may risk damaging the inferior alveolar nerve, which is a major nerve situated near the lower jawbone (or mandible). To help decide if your wisdom teeth need to be removed, X-rays will be taken.

If you feel you might be having problems with your wisdom teeth, or have questions or concerns, consult with your dentist to maintain your healthy smile. You can reach the dental team of Dr. Jim Nored at 281-328-3569. We are here to help you smile!