Clinically known as third molars, wisdom teeth got their name because they come in between the ages of 17 and 21, when people are presumably “wiser.” These molars have long been a source of oral problems and continue to be the most commonly impacted (trapped) teeth in the human mouth. The oldest-known impacted case belonged to a European woman of the Magdalenian period (15,000-10,000 BCE).
About wisdom teeth
Most adults have four third molars, one in each of the four quadrants of the mouth, but it’s possible to have none, fewer or more. These back teeth can lead to special challenges if there isn’t enough space for them or if they come in horizontally or diagonally. X-rays give dentists a view of third molar positioning under your gums. This helps determine the fate of your wisdom teeth and whether or not they’re destined to wreak havoc.
Why wisdom teeth are extracted
Nine possible reasons why your wisdom teeth may need to be extracted.
- Gum infection or abscess
- Difficulty brushing or flossing
- Poor tooth alignment hinders chewing
- There’s not enough room for the rest of your teeth
- Damaged adjacent teeth
- Partial eruption causes food and bacteria to become trapped
- Lack of opposing tooth contact has causes over-eruption
- Impacted wisdom teeth risk developing a cyst
Another reason these little beauties are such a nightmare is that they are set far back in the mouth, which makes them a challenge to keep clean.
Your dentist might also recommend third molar extraction as part of your treatment for braces, veneers or other dental care. It’s not uncommon for your dentist to monitor wisdom teeth. Be sure to floss and brush them and visit your dentist regularly.