Wisdom Teeth (Third Molars)

What are wisdom teeth (third molars)?

Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom Teeth (3rd Molar)

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are teeth which are located furthest back in each corner of your mouth. The number of wisdom teeth in your mouth varies based on genetics. You might have none at all, or you could have four or more wisdoms. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is born without a wisdom tooth then you don’t have to worry about what to do with them. However, for the majority of us who aren’t as lucky we need to decide whether to keep or remove these teeth as early as possible. The sooner you decide on what to do with your third molars, the less pain and suffering you’ll endure.

How do I know if I have wisdom teeth or not?

Look in the back of your mouth in a mirror. See the large molar teeth which are sitting furthest back? If you see three molar teeth then the furthest located one is considered to be your third molar or wisdom. However, if you only see only two molar teeth then you either don’t have a wisdom in that location or it’s still trapped underneath the gums.

The majority of the population have four wisdom teeth in their mouth. Each one is located in one of the four corners of your mouth. So there’s one each in the top right, top left, lower left and lower right corner of your mouth.

Consult your dentist if you want to know exactly how many third molar teeth you have. Dentists have a special type of X-ray, known as a panoramic, which captures your entire skull. Panoramic X-rays can conclusively determine the exact number of wisdoms in your mouth, even if they are no where close to coming out yet.

wisdom teeth number
Most people have 4 wisdom teeth, one in each corner of their mouth

When should I start worrying about my wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth typically start to force their way out during your late teens or early twenties. You’re much older when these teeth come out than with your other set of teeth. In fact since these are the last teeth that come out, the term wisdom is used for them as you are older and supposedly wiser. It’s best to decide if you can keep or remove your third molars as soon as possible, before they have a chance to cause you pain.

helpful hint: Formation of wisdom teeth

You’re actually born with all of your teeth follicles in place, including your wisdom teeth. Even as a child, all adult teeth and third molars already exist in your jaws in their immature form. Of course you won’t actually get to know how many teeth you have until later on in life when they’re ready to come out. If you are curious you can always ask your dentist to take a panoramic X-ray to see how many teeth you actually, no matter how young you may be.

Why do wisdom teeth hurt so much?

When wisdom teeth come out, or erupt, you will feel moderate to severe levels of pain. This is a pressure type of pain which is similar to teething pain, but is usually much worse! Wisdom pain is usually concentrated towards the back of your jaws. Pain typically lasts for several days to a week and then goes away once the tooth has stopped pushing. However, if left untreated, chances are wisdom pain will return within a few months or so.

Who gets to keep their wisdom teeth and who needs to remove them?

You can keep your wisdom teeth only if your jaw is large enough to fully accommodate the teeth. If this applies then you don’t have to worry about removing them. Just deal with the eruption pain once or twice and the teeth will eventually fit into your jaws.

If on the other hand your jaw is not large enough to accommodate the wisdom teeth, then you must remove them. Problematic wisdoms continue to cause repeated episodes of pain if they can’t fit into your jaws properly. This will go on for the next several years, or possibly even decades. Wisdom pain typically returns within a few months to a year when wisdoms try to push their way out again. In order to avoid suffering from repeated episodes of toothache, you should remove trapped wisdoms as early as possible.

What is the ideal age to remove my third molars?

The best time to remove your wisdom teeth is during teens or early twenties. Evaluating your wisdoms is especially important if you’ve already had braces. These teeth can cause your remaining teeth to shift which can negate your orthodontic treatment.

A good dentist should always evaluate you for the status of your third molars by the time you are around 15, 16 years old. If your dentist fails to address this issue or leaves you doubtful, then consider consulting directly with an oral surgeon for a second opinion. Here are the reasons its best to remove your wisdoms when still young:

  • Your wisdom teeth are still only partially developed when younger. Since the teeth are not full sized yet, it’s much easier to remove them for your mouth.
  • Jawbone is softer and more flexible when your still young. This also makes it easier to remove your wisdom teeth.
  • Since wisdom teeth are not fully developed yet there is a lesser chance of damaging vital structures. This makes surgery safer and reduces risks of complications.
  • Our bodies heal faster after surgery when we are younger.

Preventing pain is always better than waiting for pain and then having to worry about treating it. So we always recommend to remove wisdom teeth before they cause you pain. However many people are too scared of wisdom surgery and postpone the inevitable. Taking out your wisdoms earlier in life helps you avoid much unnecessary pain and discomfort.

What happens if I don’t remove wisdom teeth which are problematic?

Wisdom teeth damage others
Wisdom teeth can create a cavity in the neighboring teeth

Many people postpone wisdom surgery either because they are too afraid or can’t quite afford it. It’s not uncommon that dentists also neglect to advise you about what to do with your wisdom teeth. Delaying your wisdom removal only makes matters more complicated. If your wisdom teeth must be removed then delaying wisdom surgery can cause these problems:

  • Wisdom surgery becomes much more difficult with age.
  • There will be more risks and complications associated with removing your wisdoms. Risks and complications of wisdom removal really star to go up after the age of 30.
  • The bodies natural ability to heal slows down with age which leads to a slower and more painful recovery.
  • You’ve probably already suffered from several episodes of wisdom pains which were easily preventable.
  • The teeth adjacent to your wisdoms may develop a cavity over time. This is the result of your wisdom teeth pressing on the neighboring tooth. As a result, the adjacent tooth may require treatments in the form of fillings or even root canal treatment.
  • Just like any other tooth, wisdom teeth start to develop cavities over time. Infected and broken wisdom teeth are more difficult to remove. They are much more likely to break into pieces during surgery. As a result, wisdom surgery ends up being much more difficult and time consuming. Plus you’ll also have more pain afterwards.

NEXT >> When do I need to remove my wisdom teeth?

Does it hurt to have my wisdom teeth removed?

When do I get to keep my wisdom teeth?

What are the steps involved in wisdom teeth removal surgery?

What are the instructions I need to follow after removing my wisdom teeth?

What are potential wisdom teeth problems which occur after surgery?

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