Third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, are often the subject of many dental horror stories. Often associated with pain and discomfort, wisdom teeth generally get a bad rap. And sometimes, that’s for good reason. After all, wisdom teeth have been known to become impacted — that is, they do not fully grow through the gum because they get blocked by other teeth — which can be painful and can cause your teeth to shift if left unattended.
But not everything you hear about wisdom teeth is necessarily true — at least on the whole. Here are three facts that you should know to help you better understand third molars.
1. ‘Wisdom’ indicates when they grow.
The period of time between the ages of 17 to 25 has historically been known as the “Age of Wisdom.” Coincidentally, this is also the period of an individuals life when the third molars begin to grow — hence, they’re “wisdom” teeth.
2. Not everyone grows wisdom teeth.
In fact, there are some ethnic groups — like the Inuit Natives — that have a very low occurrence of wisdom teeth formation. That’s not to say that not everyone in a particular group will or will not get them. Some people do, some people don’t. Many are born with four wisdom teeth; others may have two, or none at all. Often the only way to know is through dental imagining — or once the molars start to cause discomfort or break through the gum.
3. Not all wisdom teeth must be removed.
Some individuals do not need to have their wisdom teeth extracted. Sometimes, wisdom teeth cause no discomfort or have very low risk of causing damage to other teeth, in which case your dentist may advise that removal is not necessary. However, there are certain times when wisdom teeth must be extracted. Generally you should discuss extraction with your dental professional if:
- Cavities develop on the tooth that can’t be restored
- You have an infection or develop periodontal disease
- The wisdom tooth is impacted or causes damage to neighboring teeth
- You develop certain pathologies like cysts or tumors in your mouth
When you’re considering whether or not to have your wisdom teeth removed, you should consult a dental professional who you trust that can guide you through your decision making process. The team at J Philip Centers for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry would be happy to assist you. Consider becoming a new patient or fill out our online registration form today.