What Are Wisdom Teeth?

You’ve certainly heard of wisdom teeth, but until they show up in your mouth, you might not give them much thought. Yet once they make their presence known, you can’t ignore them. 

If your wisdom teeth have arrived, you probably want all the information you can get about what they are, what purpose they serve, why they hurt, and what you should do.

At Oral Facial Surgery Specialists at The Woodlands, we believe you should be fully informed before you make any dental decisions. We also know that wisdom teeth can be somewhat mysterious and surrounded by confusion. So our team of experts, including Dr. Oscar Muñiz and Dr. Cesar Guerrero, is here to clear things up about wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth 101

One thing has become clear over the years as we’ve met and treated countless patients seeking to improve their oral health: Wisdom teeth confuse people. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. We’ll set the record straight once and for all.

How wisdom teeth got their name

Wisdom teeth have nothing to do with how smart you are, and they don’t bestow you with special intellectual powers. 

They got their name because they typically appear between the ages of 17-25, which coincides with the transition into adulthood and the maturity and wisdom that presumably come with it.

The life cycle of wisdom teeth

The day you were born, you came with all the teeth you will ever have. They’re just lying in wait within the structure of your jaw and skull. As you develop from infancy to adulthood, your teeth push through your gums. 

The first set starts to emerge when you’re a baby. By the time you’re 5 years old, you have 20 little teeth. Your first molars appear in the back around age 6, which is also the time you start losing your baby teeth. 

Eventually, your larger permanent teeth replace the smaller temporary teeth, and you get a second set of molars at age 12.

Your third set of molars, known as your wisdom teeth, are still embedded, but they don’t typically make an appearance until your late teens or early 20s. Some come through, some don’t; some cause problems, some don’t. 

The role of wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth, like all your other molars, are flat and good for grinding. Unlike your sharp canine teeth that help you tear food, molars are the real work horses. 

Some theorize that this last set of molars was once an important tool that helped our ancestors chew the tougher foods available to them. Now that our diet has changed, we no longer need the extra surface area and power.

Why you only have one or two wisdom teeth

One of the most confusing aspects of wisdom teeth is their unpredictability. Although it’s true that you’re born with all the teeth you’ll ever have, you may not end up seeing them all. 

In fact, more than half of all adults only have one wisdom tooth pop through the gums. The wisdom teeth that stay hidden are called impacted. 

Keep or extract your wisdom teeth

The pressing question about wisdom teeth is whether to keep them or have them extracted. The answer is different for everyone, and we never apply a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Many people live their whole lives without any wisdom-teeth related problems; others suffer from pain and other complications. 

X-rays can tell us a lot about whether your underlying molars will cause problems in your mouth. And if they look problematic, we can extract them preemptively. 

Here are some of the reasons we may suggest extraction:

If it turns out your wisdom teeth are more trouble than they’re worth, Dr. Muñiz and our professional team of maxillofacial surgeons perform this routine extraction with skill and compassion. 

We make sure you’re well-informed, completely comfortable, and as pain-free as possible. The procedure can be quick and simple if your wisdom teeth have erupted already, but if they are still impacted, we’re skilled in removing them just as safely and efficiently.

If you have questions about wisdom teeth and whether they need to come out, call our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or request an appointment online today.

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