Also known as the Third Molars, wisdom teeth are the last molars to erupt at the back of the mouth. They are called wisdom teeth due to the timing with which they erupt, usually between ages 17 and 25, when we are thought to be wiser than we are when the previous teeth erupted during childhood. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, although some have fewer and some have none at all. The purpose of these teeth for our ancestors was to grind down plant tissues. As we have evolved and our diets have changed, our jaws are much smaller and sometimes have no room to house these wisdom teeth.
If the teeth are aligned properly and are healthy, they don’t tend to cause problems and can remain in the mouth. In most cases though, they are the source of problems such as jaw pain or stiffness near the site, crowding, infection and swelling; therefore, early removal is usually recommended.
As part of our preventive care program your dentist will examine your teeth and gums regularly for signs of wisdom teeth. Routine dental x-rays are often the first indicator of potential future problems. A specialized panoramic digital x-ray that shows a broad view of the entire mouth and jaw is then taken to confirm the diagnosis. If found to be a problem, you will be referred to an Oral Surgeon who specializes in extractions, to have your wisdom teeth removed.