Wisdom teeth are the four teeth at the very back of the mouth in each quadrant. They are also known as the ‘third molars’. Including the wisdom teeth, there are 32 teeth in the mouth. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth, usually between the ages of 17-21 although sometimes they erupt much later. Wisdom teeth may never erupt at all and can remain in the jaws covered by your gums. This is called impaction.

Impacted wisdom teeth are usually fine to be left alone as long as they are asymptomatic and not associated with any pathology.

Sometimes wisdom teeth only erupt partially and therefore are half covered by the gums. This is called partial impaction. This can sometimes be associated with a painful infection called pericoronitis. This occurs because the pocket created by the gums is a great place to harbor bacteria and is difficult to clean. If the wisdom teeth are chronically getting infected, then it is a good idea to think about having them removed before they cause harm to neighboring teeth. Usually this only happens on the lower wisdom teeth.

If you remove the lower wisdom teeth, it is a good idea to remove the upper opposing teeth because otherwise they are prone to over-eruption. This means that they will continue to grow since there is nothing blocking their path. This can create issues such as food trapping and discomfort.

If your wisdom teeth do erupt fully and are in function it is also okay to leave them in the mouth. However, don’t forget to care for them just because they are hard to reach!

Some people are born without some or even without all of their wisdom teeth. It is believed that this may be due to our jaws getting smaller over time as humans evolve. Others claim it is due to the western diet or exposure to growth hormones in food. Whatever the cause, being born without wisdom teeth does make things a bit easier!

If you have any questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist for a consultation to make sure everything is okay!