This week’s question comes from MaKenzie, age 9. She asked, “When will I get wisdom teeth, and why do they sometimes need to be taken out?”
Answer: The average age that people start noticing their third molars is around age 18, but it can be as early as 15 and as late as 23 when they first begin to appear in the mouth. They are most likely called “wisdom teeth” because they tend to come in long after all of the baby teeth have been lost and a person has entered the “age of wisdom.” Also the latin name for third molars – dens sapientae – includes the word for wisdom.
The reason why wisdom teeth often need to be removed is due to jaw size. Many people simply don’t have enough room along the biting surface to accommodate any more teeth and so the last tooth in the row to grow often gets “stuck” behind the other ones, staying impacted (buried), only coming in halfway, or just erupting in a position that is very difficult to keep clean. All of these situations can cause the wisdom tooth area to become raw and irritated. Sometimes even a deep cyst will form because the skin cells that normally would disappear when a tooth comes in will keep growing and crowding out bone cells, which can make your jaw weak and likely to break.
If we see that any of these problems are likely to happen with your wisdom teeth, the treatment is to have them removed by a specialist called an oral surgeon who will let you sleep through the removal so that it is painless. Luckily for you, Makenzie, it looks like you’ll have plenty of time before we even need to consider yours, and there are plenty of people that do end up being able to chew with their third molars well and never have to have them removed.
Thanks so much for having the “wisdom” to ask an interesting question at such a young age! We look forward to many more years of inquisitiveness with you.
Trish moved to The Colony in 1992 after finishing her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene at Texas Woman’s University, and has been helping Dr. Rossen take care of his patients’ smiles since 1999.
The small-town feel here is the best, according to Trish, so be sure to say “hi” when you see her at the sports fields, schools, and at the grocery store. She and her husband are blessed to have two loving kids, a couple of schnauzers, and a thriving dental software company. Also, visit her at DentalBuzz.com, a humor and dental trends website.