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5 Surprising Truths About Wisdom Teeth

1. Wisdom Teeth Normally Grow Into the Mouth between the ages of 16 and 25

Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth however, they start to develop under the gum somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10. Once development is complete, teeth will come through behind the existing teeth somewhere between the ages of 16 and 25. Occasionally this can take place earlier or later. It isn't uncommon in older patients who have lost their other teeth to suddenly find that they have a wisdom tooth poking through the gum.

2. Not all Wisdom Tooth Pain Is Caused By an Infection

It's not uncommon to experience some discomfort as the wisdom teeth come through but this is usually well managed with shop bought pain relief. Hot salt mouthwashes made with a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water can be very soothing and are great for helping with wisdom tooth pain. An infection may be present if there is noticeable swelling or a difficulty in opening the mouth.

3. Wisdom Teeth Do Not Push The Other Teeth Forward

The wisdom teeth come through around the same time as a phenomenon called 'mesial drift' starts to occur. This is thought to be an evolutionary development that occurred when we ate a much coarser diet which resulted in tooth wear. The teeth evolved to drift forwards in order to counteract the wear. As our diets tend to be much softer with less chewing required, our teeth still drift forwards but without the coarse diet it results in overlapping of the teeth, especially in the lower front area.

4. Not All Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed

There are specific guidelines in the UK regarding removal of wisdom teeth. In general, wisdom teeth that are considered to be low risk for developing problems are left alone but continue to be assessed. Any wisdom tooth that develops disease or shows signs of causing problems in other teeth are much more likely to be considered for removal. The reason for this is that wisdom teeth do not always cause issues and there is a risk of permanent nerve damage if they are removed. This risk is assessed on a case by case basis and minimised wherever possible.

5. Around a Third of People Don't Have Wisdom Teeth at All

..and some people only develop 1, 2 or 3 wisdom teeth. A small number of people (and I have seen it twice so far in 16 years) have more than 4 wisdom teeth with another set of wisdom teeth developing behind their first set resulting in 36 teeth being present in the mouth. These teeth are called supernumeraries.

If you have any questions about wisdom teeth, please get in touch. Please subscribe to my blog if you found this useful.

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