Between the ages of 16 and 26 is when people start to find their wisdom teeth are erupting. The name wisdom teeth, come from the time when a child *gets wisdom* and progresses from being a youth into being an adult.
Wisdom teeth are the third of the molar series of teeth to grow into your mouth – the first molars begin growing around the age of 6 and the second molars grow around the age of 12. There are 4 wisdom teeth in all, 2 uppers and two lowers. The total number of teeth in an adult mouth is 32.
Sometimes wisdom teeth are *missing* from the mouth because they stay under the gums. An x-ray will determine if the wisdom teeth are missing from the mouth or just remaining within the jaw bone. Sometimes wisdom teeth don’t form at all.
What problems can wisdom teeth cause?
- Unerupted wisdom teeth – these are teeth that haven’t grown into the mouth. Usually when this happens it is because the wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to fit in
- Cyst formation – a wisdom tooth that is totally unerupted may be surrounded by fluid. A cyst can then form which may damage the adjacent teeth, the nerves and the jaw. Often this problem is detected through the use of x-rays.
- Pain – as wisdom teeth move through the bone and gum and into their final position, some people may find some pain and discomfort. This can be part of the natural process of eruption, or it may be due to infected gums.
- Infected Gums – a tooth that has partially broken through the gums allows bacteria to enter the area around the crown of the tooth. Bacteria can breed and cleaning this area is almost impossible. This condition is known as Pericoronitis – an infection around the crown.
- Tooth Decay – a tooth, even one partially covered in gum can still decay, if this happens it is very hard to treat
- Crowding – wisdom teeth often don’t have enough room to come into the mouth – in a good position for eating and cleaning. Wisdom teeth sometimes come through at strange angles and can cause uneven wear on other teeth. Your dentist may suggest removing the wisdom teeth early to prevent the potential for overcrowding.
Looking after your wisdom teeth
- Ensure you have a regular dental check up
- Keep up with your good dental hygiene and brushing
- Use a teething gel if your gums become sore during the eruption process
- Beware of some foods like apple peel and popcorn when the teeth haven’t fully erupted.
How do I know if teeth need to be removed?
If you are experiencing pain, swelling at the back of your jaw or difficulty opening your mouth. You may experience no pain at all, and it is possible to develop bone loss without any symptoms. Keep up with your regular dental check-ups.
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