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Wisdom Teeth Explained in Detail

Part of keeping your mouth healthy is knowing what’s going on in there, even in the cracks and crevices you can’t see. Our oral hygiene is something most of us take for granted until we notice pain or bleeding, but preventative care is the key to good dental health.

To take care of your mouth the way it needs, you should understand the workings behind the scenes. One of those hidden processes is the growth of your wisdom teeth. Many people don’t even know they’re coming in until they’re either there or painfully growing.

Here are the answers to commonly asked questions like “What are wisdom teeth?” and other essential things you should know!

Wisdom Teeth Basics 101

As you grow, your mouth goes through many changes, like kicking out your baby teeth to make room for the permanent ones. Even after you think you’ve lost all your temporary teeth and your mouth is all grown up, more changes are on the horizon. You’ll grow your wisdom teeth!

1. At what age do you get wisdom teeth?

Somewhere between the ages of 17 and 21, you’ll find yourself growing your third set of molars. These are called your “wisdom teeth,” only because of the fact that they come later in life. The question of how many wisdom teeth you have is always the same – everyone gets two in each corner, four total,  just like your molars.

2. How do you know if your wisdom teeth are coming in?

Healthy wisdom teeth will come through without too much discomfort. The signs of wisdom teeth growth are similar to the kind you experienced as a child when your permanent teeth were growing in. 

But if your teeth are already cramped in your mouth, you might experience wisdom teeth pain as they grow in. When that happens, a visit to the dentist is in order.

3. What are impacted wisdom teeth?

As your wisdom teeth grow, sometimes they aren’t in the right position to come cleanly through your gum. If it is stuck below the surface of your gums, it’s considered to be impacted. 

Sometimes an impacted tooth is an annoyance, but other times it can cause complications in your mouth. Your dentist will monitor your wisdom teeth growth and watch for signs that one or both could be impacted.

4. What does wisdom teeth pain feel like?

The discomfort of your new molars growing in could be nothing more than a slight discomfort, or it could cause problems that result in side effects. These side effects can be painful.

If food becomes trapped in your mouth because of the angle of the new teeth growth, bacteria will thrive in those spaces, resulting in infection and cavities. As the teeth grow in, even if they’re healthy, that opening in your gum leaves you susceptible to bacteria, too. If infection occurs, you’re going to experience signs of it in symptoms like pain, swelling, and jaw stiffness. Letting the bacteria around your molar teeth go for too long can even cause wisdom tooth decay.

Impacted teeth may form cysts around the site of impaction. When these cysts aren’t taken care of timely, they can damage the surrounding teeth’ roots and destroy the jawbone area. 

5. When do you need your wisdom teeth removed?

You’ve probably been warned that you’ll need your wisdom teeth removed at some point, but that’s not always true. Every individual has a different mouth, and unless there’s discomfort or a specific reason, you may have no problems with your new molars!

Wisdom teeth usually have to be removed when changes like these are evident:

  • You notice a lot of pain as your teeth are coming through
  • The teeth are impacted
  • Bacteria has set in, causing infection
  • The impacted teeth resulted in cysts
  • There is damage to the nearby teeth or jawbone
  • You have gum disease or too much tooth decay
  • Your mouth is already crowded, and the new teeth could shift your permanent teeth into unhealthy or undesirable positions

Caring For Your Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth removal is a normal, routine procedure that your dentist may do, or they may recommend you see a specialist if your condition is complex. But before you worry about having your wisdom teeth pulled, schedule an appointment at Eriks Dental for an evaluation. X-rays and an exam by our expert staff will quickly get you answers to all your questions!