Wisdom Teeth: When They Come In & When They Need to Go

Wisdom Teeth Stay or Go

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are often referred to as third molars because they grow in at the back of the mouth, behind your second set of molars – both top & bottom.

They usually develop between the teenage years and early twenties, a time traditionally associated with the onset of maturity and the attainment of wisdom. 1

Once essential for an early human diet of roots, leaves, meat, and nuts, wisdom teeth are no longer totally necessary.

Today, humans cook food to soften it, and we can cut and crush it with utensils. 2

Wisdom Teeth: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Studies have shown that about 9 out of 10 people have at least one wisdom tooth that can’t break through the gums in an upright functional position – otherwise known as impacted. 3

If left alone, an impacted tooth can become infected or damage neighboring teeth, which can lead to gum disease and even the formation of cysts and tumors.

By the time you feel any pain, it could be too late to prevent the problem. If a wisdom tooth does need to be removed, it best to get then extracted while you’re young – typically in the mid to late teens.

The American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) strongly recommends that 3rd molars be evaluated annually from the time a patient is a young adult.

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Potential problems associated with wisdom teeth can include:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Infection
  • Crowding – and damage to neighboring teeth
  • Impaction
  • Higher risk for tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Jaw pain
  • Cysts & tumors

Why Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Because we basically don’t even need them anymore.

People who get their wisdom teeth removed at a younger age tend to heal better from surgery before their root structure is fully developed.

In general, you will heal faster, more predictably and have fewer complications if treated in your teens or early twenties. 

– Dr. Karl Maloney, Board-Certified Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon

This can help avoid any potential problems before they arise – think of it as preventative smile maintenance.

Wisdom teeth tend to become more problematic over time.

In addition, sometimes your dentist will recommend wisdom tooth extraction before getting braces, to ensure that these third molars don’t erupt after braces have changed your teeth & bite.

Both general dentists and oral & maxillofacial surgeons can perform wisdom tooth extraction surgery.

Even if you do not have your wisdom teeth removed, make sure you floss around your existing wisdom teeth and visit your dentist for regular bi-annual checkups.

Regular dental visits allow your dentist to evaluate any potential complications caused by your wisdom teeth – and set you up for optimal oral AND overall health!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on a Dental Patient News and has been republished here with permission. It has since been updated for accuracy & comprehensiveness.


1 – https://www.branchburgoralsurgery.com/procedures/wisdom-teeth/impacted-wisdom-teeth/
2 – https://www.healthline.com/health/why-do-we-have-wisdom-teeth#1
3 – https://youtu.be/roODhopc1c8 (American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons)

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