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Although many people have heard of wisdom teeth, it is not a common subject where a great amount of knowledge is known. Most people only become aware of wisdom teeth when problems start to occur as generally wisdom teeth develop later compared to ‘normal’ teeth. As this can be a dense subject we’ll take two postings to look at this topic. In the first, we’ll take a closer look at these late flourishers and some associated problems. In our second posting on wisdom teeth later in the month, we will focus more on how and why wisdom teeth are likely to be removed.
Most adults have up to 32 teeth and as alluded to above, wisdom teeth are the last of these to appear. The general age of appearance is anything from late teens to mid-twenties although in some people the onset can be much later. The problem with the adult mouth and jaw is that it is far too small for all 32 teeth to fit comfortably. Once the adult teeth have become established, the emergence of wisdom teeth can lead to overcrowding and in worse cases become problematic.
Despite what is often thought and believed, wisdom teeth don’t always cause problems, and if the adult teeth have formed in such a way that some room is left, the wisdom teeth will fill the space perfectly with no intervention needed. Bear in mind that wisdom teeth can be a little painful when they first appear and this is normal and not a sign of anything necessarily adverse.
Problem wisdom teeth
The technical name for when wisdom teeth which cause problems, is called being ‘impacted.’
Sometimes wisdom teeth can partly appear with the other part remaining below the gum line. This can lead to a situation called pericoronitis, where bacteria can form below the edge causing gums to become red and swell. Normally this problem is short term and extra careful cleaning can help with this.
If you find you are having problems with wisdom teeth then firstly try all the usual home remedies to see whether you obtain any relief. These include the usual warm salt water rinses, medicated mouthwashes etc.
If the wisdom teeth are still giving problems, then you will need to visit your dentist for further investigation. Chances are an x-ray will be taken which will show much more information about the position and the likelihood of the tooth/teeth coming through without problems in the longer term.
Another dental misconception is that wisdom teeth are regularly taken out. Although we will discuss this much more in part two of the series, this practice tends to be discouraged as a matter of rule, although obviously it depends on an individual situation.
To close this section out, let’s consider some more facts about wisdom teeth – how many of these are you aware of?
* Wisdom teeth (so called) got their name because they appear during adulthood supposedly when we have gained greater wisdom as people.
* Over a third of the population as adults do not have wisdom meaning that all this will never apply to some people.
* Wisdom teeth are something of an evolutionary concept and as humans we no longer need them because we don’t have to hunt and deal with food in the same way ancestors would have.
* Research is currently being done into whether wisdom teeth can be inhibited from growing altogether and thus avoid all problems, although bear in mind that wisdom teeth grow stem cells which can be used for genetic reasons later in life and so can be useful even if indirectly.
Look out for part two of the wisdom teeth series coming soon!
In the meantime if you are having problems with wisdom teeth, then talk to us by finding our details on the contact page.