Wisdom teeth also called "third molars". They are the last series of teeth to erupt and also the last "third" set of molars/back teeth. There is usually one wisdom tooth on each corner of your mouth so there are four wisdom teeth in total. They start to erupt between the age of 16 years to 25 years olds, although some may erupt much later.
However when they do so , they generally cause problems. There is also often not enough room for them to grow and so they become impacted (through evolution our jaw is getting smaller).
What are the possible problems caused by wisdom teeth?
Infection caused by build up of plaque and bacteria
damage such as caries of the adjacent tooth (second molar)
crowding or displacement of other teeth
cysts development (and in uncommon cases, tumour)
When should wisdom teeth be removed?
It is now recommended by specialists to remove impacted wisdom teeth between the ages of 14 and 24 years even if they do not cause any problems, as at this age range people tend to recover quicker and surgery is easier and the risk of complications are small.
So it is always a good idea to have your wisdom teeth checked even before they cause any problems.
Do I need to take out my wisdom teeth?
Although many people may need to have their wisdom teeth removed, not everyone need to have them extracted. If they have come out straight and healthy, do come cause problems to the adjacent teeth or the dentition and you are able to maintain them well, then there may be no reason to remove those wisdom tooth or teeth.
It would be best to have a proper dental consultation with the dentist. He/she will need some x-rays, perform a thorough examination, and review your current and prior dental health. If you need to have your teeth extracted, the dentist will explain why he/she has made that recommendation. While the decision on whether or not to go through with an extraction is yours, it may be best to listen to the dentist advice or you may also get a second opinion from another dentist or oral surgeon if you feel the need to do so.
Does everyone have wisdom teeth?
No. While most people will experience one of their wisdom teeth to emerge at some stage during their late teens and early adult years. Some people may only have one to three wisdom teeth (not four), while a few others may not have any at all.
One study that looked back at almost hundred of articles has found that the worldwide rate of missing wisdom teeth to be about 22%, although the estimates ranged from 5% to 56% depending on the region, population and studies. Women are 14% more likely than men to have missing third molars. Missing wisdom teeth were 36% more likely to be in the upper arch than the lower arch.
Why don't some people have wisdom teeth?
The definitive answer is we don't know. This may involve genetics. jaw evolution, environment, diet and chewing functions.
Some research suggests that a random mutation arose which suppressed the formation of wisdom teeth, a trait that then spread and now accounts for the lack of wisdom teeth among some modern humans.
Some believe that through evolution our jaws is getting smaller so there is not enough room for those teeth, while our brain is getting larger. We also do not need to chew coarse rough food as much as our ancestor.
Other useful information:
We may also take a large dental x-ray, called OPG (Orthopantomogram) to assess the condition and status of your wisdom teeth. It is a panoramic or wide view x-ray of the lower face, which displays all the teeth of the upper and lower jaw on a single flat film. It would also give a general overview of the dentition and the bone which supports the teeth.
We have a digital OPG machine conveniently at our practice, so we do not need to refer you to another x-ray centre to have it taken, saving you time and get things done more efficiently.
With the advanced of technology, a 3D (three-dimensional) x-ray may also need to be taken in some cases to proper assess the position and anatomy of the wisdom teeth and its adjacent structures. Also referred as dental cone beam computerised tomography (CBCT) scan, 3D images of your teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways and bone are produced.
This is particular useful for surgical removal of lower wisdom teeth to assess its proximity to a major nerve (Inferior Dental Nerve)