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Do you ever wonder about your wisdom teeth? Whether you have them, or not? After all, it’s not like you can see them. Are they necessary to the functioning of your mouth? And why are they called wisdom teeth, anyway?

A Little History

Wisdom teeth come in just as you are maturing into adulthood at the age when people generally become “wiser.” Because of this timing, they became known as the “teeth of wisdom” as early as the 17th Century. It has only been since the 19th Century that they have been called “wisdom teeth.” Research confirms that the human brain continues to develop through the twenties, so we really are wiser by the time the wisdom teeth come in!

What They Are

Of all your pearly whites, your wisdom teeth are the last to emerge as they erupt through the gums. They are the third and final set of molars coming after all your other teeth have debuted—the incisors, canines, premolars and molars. By the time you were six the first molars erupted in your mouth and the second molars came in around age twelve. Wisdom teeth generally show up when you are anywhere from 17-21 years old. They don’t always erupt through the gums though, sometimes they will sit under the gums and not cause problems, other times, they may be impacted, grow sideways, and cause issues.

To Keep or Not to Keep

Of all your teeth, your wisdom teeth are the only ones that are not necessary for healthy functioning, so removing them is not detrimental. In fact, leaving them in can potentially result in the following:

–gum disease
–damage to nearby teeth they are touching

As they can be a haven for harmful, plaque-causing bacteria this can result in tooth decay and gum disease. A partially erupted wisdom tooth may result in pericoronitis—an infection where bacteria from food, plaque and debris is trapped in the space between impacted tooth and the gums.  Misalignment can occur when wisdom teeth crowd surrounding teeth, jawbone or nerves. This can result in pain and discomfort, and your dentist may recommend their removal to prevent further issues. It is advisable to have them removed when the bone is not as dense and the roots of the wisdom tooth are not yet fully developed, rather than waiting until later in life, making them harder to remove and take longer to recover.

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like more information, the team at Dr. Ronald Fuhrmann’s office can be reached at 757-716-7943.