Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Why are they called ‘wisdom teeth’? Do they make you wise? Or are you already expected to be wise when they come in? There isn’t a whole lot of recorded history about why wisdom teeth, or as they were once referred to, ‘teeth of wisdom,’ are so called. But linguists seem to agree that they were nicknamed for wisdom because they appear in the mouth later in life than other teeth, typically between the ages of 17 and 21. Formerly known as third molars, wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to erupt in the mouth. Oftentimes they come in unnoticed. However, when there’s just not enough room to fit them in the mouth, or when they become impacted, wisdom teeth seem anything but wise. In fact, if you’re someone who’s suffered with an impacted or crowding wisdom tooth, you likely thought how stupid it was for that thing to try to muscle its way into your already cramped chops. So what are wisdom teeth anyway? What purpose do they serve? And what happens if you’re having problems with them? Here’s some information about wisdom teeth and what can be done with wisdom teeth that that are not coming in correctly. For more information about wisdom teeth contact a top dentist today, and they will be happy to answer all of your questions about dental health.

The website of the National Institute of Health reports that folks generally should notice their wisdom teeth coming in anywhere from age 17 to about 21. Most people have four wisdom teeth, including upper right; upper left, lower right, and lower left. Not so frequently, dentists find folks who don’t have these 4 wisdom teeth, and this is typically due to genetic makeup. It’s estimated that approximately a fourth of the people in the country are lacking one or even more of their wisdom teeth. If you’re over 21 and you don’t recognize that your wisdom teeth have emerged yet, it may be that they’re impacted. When a tooth is referred to as ‘impacted,’ this means it has not fully emerged into the position where it is attempting to surface. The tooth may be either fully or partially covered in gum. This can happen when there is not enough room in a patient’s jaw and overcrowding occurs. Another reason is that the tooth is coming in on an angle. A third reason is that the tooth’s path is obstructed.

If a wisdom becomes infected or impacted, extraction may be necessary. This can be fairly simple, or more complicated, depending on the amount of the tooth that has emerged from the jawbone. If the wisdom tooth has surfaced through the jawbone, then it can be extracted like any other tooth that may need to be pulled. However, if the tooth hasn’t fully emerged yet, this likely will require oral surgery because the tooth is within the jawbone. In this case, the tooth plus any bone that obstructs it will need to be extracted. Naturally, as with any type of surgery, recovery will be necessary. During this period, your family dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe medications for pain. There may be some facial swelling post surgery, and you will likely be given instructions to refrain from rinsing, sucking, or spitting within the first day or so following surgery. After the first 24 hours, your dentist may instruct you to begin rinsing your mouth with warm salt water periodically throughout the day, as this is a powerful agent of healing. The recovery period typically takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Do wisdom teeth serve a purpose? The jury’s still out on that one. The function of wisdom teeth is still a hotly debated subject in dental and medical circles. Some say wisdom teeth are ‘vestigial,’ meaning man once used them but has no current purpose for them. Others say wisdom teeth serve the same purpose as other teeth; they help us chew better. Of course, if you’re someone who suffers from an impacted wisdom tooth, it matters not to you whether the darn thing has a purpose or not. You just need to have the problem solved. If you’re experiencing complications from an impacted or crowding wisdom tooth, schedule a consultation with a top dentist to learn about your options for relieving your pain and restoring your smile.

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