Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to grow in the back of the mouth. Common misunderstandings surround their name origin, removal reasons and pain sources, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.
“The name ‘wisdom teeth’ is age-related – third molars don’t erupt until teenage years and beyond, when people theoretically are more wise to the world,” says AGD spokesperson Trey Petty, DDS, FAGD.
Reasons to Remove Wisdom Teeth
Common reasons for wisdom teeth removal include impaction, pain and crowding of the other teeth.
“If wisdom teeth are not visible, they are impacted or unable to erupt due to space and size limitations,” says Dr. Petty. “Impacted teeth don’t have enough room to grow and will lay beneath the gums, which may or may not be a problem.”
Pain and tooth crowding are also top wisdom teeth problems. “Adults have forgotten what normal pain from a growing tooth feels like,” says Dr. Petty. Complications also can arise when wisdom teeth partially erupt. The broken gum acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.
“When wisdom teeth partially erupt, food can get caught in the gums and may cause an infection, swelling, growth of a tumor or cyst, and pain,” says Dr. Petty. “If this happens, consult your dentist before problems worsen and affect overall oral health.”
“If your wisdom teeth have erupted, the key to preserving them is maintaining good oral health by brushing twice a day and seeing your dentist twice a year,” says Dr. Petty.