What are Wisdom Teeth? Let’s Learn More About Them

Teeth are an essential part of the oral cavity. One of the primary purposes of teeth is to help us in speaking, chewing, and swallowing.

From infancy to adulthood, several teeth erupt in two stages, namely the primary set of teeth and the permanent set of teeth.

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Incisors, canines, premolar, and molars are the four types of teeth that become a functional part of our mouth.

At around 17 – 21 years of age, adults develop a unique set of molars called the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are a set of third molars and are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth.

Third molars slightly differ from the other group of molars in terms of anatomy. Third molars are flatter and have less defined grooves on the occlusal surface.

Often wisdom teeth are problem makers. Usually, the problem starts when there is a lack of space for the third molars to erupt.

At this time, they can cause pain, infection, discomfort, and may also affect the health of the adjacent tooth.

This is the reason why wisdom teeth are often subjected to extraction procedures.

In today’s article, we will look upon the characteristics of wisdom teeth and find out the reason for their frequent removal.

What are the characteristics of wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are a set of third molars that erupt one per each quadrant of the human dentition.

These teeth are the last ones to erupt and are located at the posteriormost position of the jaw adjacent to the second molar.

Generally, an adult has four wisdom teeth; two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw, but in rare cases, it is possible to have more, few or none of them.

The extra set of the molar is often referred to as supernumerary teeth or paramolars. (1)

With human evolution, the size of the jaw has been decreasing from generation to generation.

As a consequence, Agenesis of third molars is reaching its peak. Therefore, many adults among the young generations don’t have their third molars formed in the jaw.

However, this concept is variable among the population.

When do wisdom teeth erupt?

Wisdom teeth begin to grow in the jaw at the age of seven years, unlike other sets of teeth that grow just before or at birth.

Usually, wisdom teeth are the last ones to erupt in the jaw, and that may be around 17 – 21 years of age.

Wisdom teeth were meant to replace the worn out molars in pre-historic men due to their abrasive eating habits.

However, with the change in diet in the modern world, the jaws are becoming smaller from generation to generation. Moreover, the use of wisdom teeth has become entirely unnecessary. (2)

Studies have shown that the development of wisdom teeth in 53% of the population has come down from four to one.

Why are wisdom teeth often extracted?

One of the significant reasons for impaction or partial eruption of wisdom teeth is the evolutionary progress.

With the drastic change in jaw size, there is no space left for the wisdom teeth to fit in the mouth.

Often such incidences cause a lot of dental problems including– (3)

  • Crowding of the teeth
  • Crooked Smile
  • Increased risk of tooth decay
  • Gum diseases
  • Jaw pain
  • The eruption of wisdom teeth either buccally or lingually
  • Increased risk of cyst and tumor formations
  • Pain, infection, and discomfort

A dentist can determine the problems associated with the wisdom tooth by performing a thorough dental examination aided with a dental x-ray.

The best time for wisdom tooth removal is during adolescence as it decreases the potential dental problems before their initiation.

Additionally, during this time, the roots do not solidify in the bone, and it becomes easier to remove the teeth with minimal discomfort. (4)

People who get their wisdom tooth removed at the age of 18-21 heal better and do not experience crowding or unnecessary tooth decay.

Orthodontic treatments require the mandatory removal of wisdom teeth to eliminate any hindrance or disruption of the result.

A dentist or an oral surgeon is the best healthcare professionals that can guide you about wisdom tooth removal.

While deciding to undergo an extraction, always listen to the pre and post-extraction instructions to avoid any complications later on.

What is the cost of wisdom tooth extraction?

The cost of a wisdom tooth extraction mainly depends upon the clinical eruption position of the tooth and the specialization of the dentist.

Costs may also vary in different locations. It is always best to speak with the dentist and talk about the charges in detail.

Moreover, check with your insurance provider if the cost of wisdom tooth extractions is covered in the policy.

But to give a general idea, a simple extraction procedure for a fully erupted wisdom tooth may cost a little less, which is around $99 – $150 per tooth.

However, for impacted wisdom teeth, the cost of treatment shoots up to anywhere between $230 and $350 per tooth.

Take away message

Wisdom teeth are one of the unique sets of molars that erupt late during adolescence after all the teeth have erupted in the mouth.

Wisdom teeth are often called third molars and are the most common teeth associated with jaw pain, gum disease, infection, and discomfort.

The primary purpose of wisdom tooth was to act as replacement molars for pre-historic humans when they fed on hard nuts, leaves, and fruits.

However, with the evolutionary progress, the diet habits changed, people switched to a softer diet; moreover, the jaw size became small, which couldn’t accommodate the third molars.

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This is one of the reasons why the young generation either have few, none or impacted wisdom teeth.

Wisdom tooth extraction is the preferred choice of treatment for such cases. A dentist or an oral surgeon can look at the dental condition and determine the best time for a wisdom tooth removal.

The earlier the tooth is removed, the better the healing is and the lesser the dental problems.

If you are experiencing constant discomfort because of your third molars, consult your dentist today and find out the best solution.

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