One event that teens have to look forward to among many exciting “growing up” events is the appearance of wisdom teeth. Some say that these teeth appear during the teen years because this is the time in life when you really need the most wisdom as you struggle with a barrage of decisions that will ultimately have a huge impact on your future. Wisdom teeth are the 3rd set of molars to come in your mouth since you were born. The first set of molars came in when you were just a baby, the 2nd set of molars came in around age ten and now you, as a teen will soon have your wisdom teeth, or your 3rd set of molars. As it would happen, because they are the last set of molars to come into your mouth they often will not have the room to fit into your mouth. This crowding situation causes what dentist call, “impacted teeth”.
Not only can wisdom teeth become “impacted” but there is another problem that can easily present itself soon after the wisdom teeth push up and that is that they are largely ignored by the teen as they forget to brush all the way back where the wisdom teeth have come in. Not brushing the surfaces of the wisdom teeth can cause dental decay to set in.
If your wisdom teeth can cause problems as soon as they arrive in your mouth, what is the purpose of having wisdom teeth? In past generations people had poor dental care and they often lost permanent teeth, so the wisdom teeth coming in during the teen years were another set of teeth that could be used in adulthood to chew food. Nowadays if the wisdom teeth come in crooked or sideways (due to overcrowding of the permanent teeth), the dentist usually recommends that the wisdom teeth be pulled. This in no way has an impact on your intellect, only on the number of adult teeth you have in your mouth.
How do you know when your wisdom teeth are causing your problems?
Your dentist can spot problems with your wisdom teeth during your twice a year visits. Your dentist will look for signs of decay, and signs of crowding.
You may notice problems if you experience pain or swelling around your wisdom teeth.
In order to promote good dental health, if you or your dentist suspects problems with your wisdom teeth, your dentist will perform some dental x-rays to detect possible infection. The x-rays will also show if there is an impaction because of the wisdom teeth coming in (not enough room for the wisdom teeth to properly come up through the gum). Some dentists will still press to remove wisdom teeth even if they are not impacted to prevent chronic bacterial infection because this infection can lead to decay of the wisdom teeth and spread to gum infection or cause decay of the nearby teeth too. Taking the wisdom teeth out is often the best decision for the dental health of the entire mouth. The dentist knows that it is easier to take out wisdom teeth when you are young because as you age it will become more difficult to remove the wisdom teeth because the jawbone will be denser and the root of the wisdom teeth will be more dully developed and harder to pull.