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Have you ever wondered about your wisdom teeth? Do you have them? Do you not? After all, it’s not like you can see them. Are they necessary to the functioning of your mouth? Wisdom teeth are the last of your teeth to emerge if they erupt through the gums. They are the final set of molars coming after all your other teeth have debuted—the incisors, canines, premolars and molars.

Around the age of six the first molars erupted in your mouth and the second molars came in around age 12. Your wisdom teeth generally show up when you are anywhere from 17-21 years old. They don’t always come through, sometimes they will just sit under the gums and not cause problems, and sometimes, they cause pain. Of all your teeth, they are the only ones that aren’t necessary for healthy functioning.

A Little History

Nicknamed “wisdom teeth” these come in just as you are maturing into adulthood at the age when people generally become “wiser.” Known as the “teeth of wisdom” in the 17th Century, they have been called “wisdom teeth” since the 19th Century. Recent research confirms that the brain continues to develop through your twenties. The decision-making, or rational part of the brain–the prefrontal cortex–isn’t fully developed until age 25. In effect, we really are wiser by the time the wisdom teeth emerge!

To Keep or Not to Keep

Many people never have a problem with their wisdom teeth, but many do. And there are risks with keeping them in:

–damage to nearby teeth they are touching
–gum disease

Because of their location in the back of the mouth, they are more difficult to clean, which makes effective brushing and flossing a challenge. The result can be tooth decay and gum disease as they can be a refuge for harmful, plaque-causing bacteria. Additionally, a partially erupted wisdom tooth may be susceptible to pericoronitis—an infection where bacteria from food, plaque and debris is trapped in the space between impacted tooth and the gums.

A common problem with wisdom teeth is misalignment, which happens because their location can crowd surrounding teeth, jawbone or nerves. Because of this misalignment and their potential to cause pain and infection, your dentist may recommend removal of your wisdom teeth.

Your dentist will take X-rays to help determine if they should be removed. If your dentist recommends removal, it is advisable to have it done earlier than later. Younger bone is not as dense and the roots of the wisdom tooth are not yet fully developed.

If you have any questions or more information, our caring dental team at Taylor Family Dentistry can be reached today at 513.229.7801.