What are Wisdom Teeth?


After losing our baby teeth, having permanent teeth replace them, and having the first and second set of molars erupt in early childhood, the third molars (more commonly called wisdom teeth) are the final set of molars to erupt. After a brief pause in tooth eruption activities, the third set of molars typically comes in around a person’s 21st birthday, an age at which a person is presumably wiser than they were as a child.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Not every person develops four wisdom teeth. Some people develop just one, two, or three. Also, developed wisdom teeth do not always erupt. A person with a full set of wisdom teeth set deep in the skull bones might have just one or two actually erupt once the jaw is fully grown.

It is thought that wisdom teeth were once very necessary in human survival. Back in the days when people survived on a diet of mostly roots, leaves, nuts, fruits, and meat and enjoyed considerably less dental care, we likely needed a third set of molars to come in and replace teeth that were already worn or decayed by the time we entered adulthood.

Today, however, wisdom teeth are less necessary. In fact, they cause more harm than good because many of us do not actually have enough space along the jawbone to accommodate a third set of molars. As a result, wisdom teeth can actually lead to overcrowding in the mouth, crooked teeth, impactions, and infections when they try to start coming in.

For those who do have room on the jawbone for their wisdom teeth, the teeth might not cause any space-related issues but they can be difficult to keep adequately clean often leading to tooth decay and cavities.


Should Your Wisdom Teeth Be Extracted?

Whether or not wisdom teeth need to be removed is a decision that you should make with your dentist. The choice to remove them depends largely on the individual patient’s anatomy. If your wisdom teeth aren’t causing any problems, then you might be able to leave them as they are and take special precautions with dental sealants and extra-careful brushing. If yours are impacted, partially erupted, or trapped beneath the gum line, then they might need to be removed.

To learn more about wisdom teeth and find out whether yours or your child’s should be removed, we welcome you to schedule a consultation at Cardinal Dental today.