Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Did you know that you were born with all of the teeth you will ever have?! It’s true – they’re just higher up in your skull structure as a baby and child. You will have two sets of teeth grow in during your lifetime: 20 baby teeth (referred to as “primary teeth”), which will eventually fall out, followed by 32 permanent teeth, which should all erupt by your early twenties. Your back teeth, referred to as “molars,” are the last to grow in. Your first set of molars typically erupt around the age of six, followed by a second set around the age of twelve. Finally, your third set of molars (referred to as “wisdom teeth”) are usually visible by your late teens – early twenties.


What are Wisdom Teeth?

Unlike your primary and permanent teeth, which show up at a young age, your wisdom teeth only emerge at a mature age – hence the name, “wisdom teeth.” It is said that you are presumably “wiser” by the time these molars grow in. Many adults have four wisdom teeth in the back corners of their mouth: two on the top and two on the bottom. Some people’s wisdom teeth will fully come in, while some may still be underneath their gum line or have been (or will need to be) extracted via oral surgery. One study shows that nearly 53% of people have at least one wisdom tooth come in. Interestingly enough, men are more likely to have wisdom teeth than women.

Years and years ago, a third set of back molars were necessary for humans to chew and grind certain foods popular in their diets, such as roots, leaves, meats and nuts. However, now that diets have changed, food is prepared differently, utensils are used to cut food and modern oral hygiene practices have improved, wisdom teeth really are not needed anymore. Today, human jaws are smaller and are not equipped to house an extra set of molars. A result to the lack of extra space in our mouths today, wisdom teeth can become stuck in your jaw, unable to grow properly up through your gums and can cause crowding issues for your surrounding teeth.

Will My Wisdom Teeth Need to be Extracted?

Since wisdom teeth typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 21, it’s difficult to know early on if your wisdom teeth will need to be removed or not. Remember, just because you may not see your wisdom teeth, that doesn’t mean they are not there. Sometimes, wisdom teeth never erupt and will never become fully visible. During your bi-annual dental cleaning appointments, your general dentist will use X-Rays to determine if any/all of your wisdom teeth will grow in at an angle (referred to as “impacted”). If any or all of these teeth are impacted, they will most likely need to be surgically removed, which is referred to as an extraction.

Although most people get their wisdom teeth removed as teenagers or young adults, as a precaution of future dental issues, it is important to remember that not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. Based on their location and how they erupt, some people may only need one or two wisdom teeth extracted. When it comes to wisdom teeth, no matter your age, if pain or discomfort settles in, or your surrounding teeth become crowded, you should consult your dentist to see if wisdom teeth extraction is needed. If so, you will be referred to a trustworthy oral surgeon for a consultation.

Contact Lasting Smiles of Bethlehem Today!

Lasting Smiles of Bethlehem offers a variety of dental services and treatments available to you and your family. Whether you’re looking for a general dentist in the Bethlehem, PA region to perform routine procedures and dental exams, or you are in need of X-rays and a consultation about having your wisdom teeth extracted, please give us a call at (610) 861-0777.

Contact Lasting Smiles of Bethlehem today to receive top-notch dental care!

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