Putting the “Wisdom” in Wisdom Teeth

Have you ever thought about why wisdom teeth are called wisdom teeth? Linguists generally concede that the name was given because wisdom teeth appear at a later age than other teeth. At this age, a person is “wiser” than when other teeth came in.

Wisdom teeth are the molars in the very back of your mouth that usually come in during people’s late teens or early twenties. Sometimes wisdom teeth can be a valuable asset to a healthy mouth, but more often than not, they come in misaligned.

When wisdom teeth come in misaligned, they could be positioned horizontally or angled incorrectly (toward/away other teeth or inward/outward). This alignment can crowd or damage your other teeth, jawbone, or nerves.

Another common problem with wisdom teeth is that they can be impacted. This means they only partially break through the gum because are enclosed within the soft tissue. This can create an opening where bacteria can surround the tooth and create an infection. This will result in pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, and general illness. If the teeth are partially erupted they are also prone to tooth decay and gum disease because the hard to reach location makes brushing difficult.

Your dentist will keep an eye on your wisdom and should periodically X-ray your mouth to view their alignment. If your dentist suspects problems may arise, he will probably refer you to an oral surgeon for extraction. This removal is easier in young people because the roots are not fully developed and the bone is less dense. The extraction should take place before problems develop in order to avoid a more painful and complicated procedure later.

Once you are referred to an oral surgeon, you need to go get an evaluation relatively quickly. The more your wisdom teeth come in, the harder the surgery will be. Your oral surgeon will likely conduct a consultation where he can evaluate your teeth to determine which ones need to be removed and how he will conduct the procedure. The words surgery and procedure may seem scary, but wisdom teeth surgery is not so bad! You will be put under anesthesia for the procedure and recovery is not too terrible. For the first day, you may experience bleeding, swelling of the cheeks, and an all-liquid diet. However, after a few days your facial swelling will go down and you can begin to consume a variety of foods. Your oral surgeon can give you more tips about how to care for your teeth after the procedure.

We hope you’ve learned a little more about wisdom teeth and feel a little better about potential surgery. Wisdom teeth are nothing to be afraid of!

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