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Can Wisdom Teeth Grow Back After Extraction?

If you've had your wisdom teeth pulled, do you wonder, "Can my wisdom teeth grow back?" The simple answer: No. The more complicated answer: No, but you might already have an extra set of wisdom teeth lying in wait.

How is that possible? It seems a small percentage of the population have extra – or supernumerary — teeth hiding in their mouths. Researchers attribute this condition primarily to genetic disorders. We'll clue you in on wisdom teeth and what to expect if you have more than four of these back molars.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth, usually referred to as your third molars, erupt in young adults' mouths around ages 17-21. Because this period coincides with adulthood, these molars came to be known as wisdom teeth. (Clever, huh?)

Though wisdom teeth don't seem like a smart thing to have nowadays, the Smithsonian Institution reports that wisdom teeth were most likely lifesavers in our evolutionary past. Early humans ate uncooked, difficult-to-chew food (unlike us), and they were prone to tooth decay and gum problems (just like us). So, it's likely they lost several molars due to decay or injury before they reached their late teens. The arrival of wisdom teeth allowed our distant ancestors to continue to chew their food, thus ensuring humans would survive. (Yay!)

However, as humans evolved, our food became much easier to chew, our jaws became smaller, but our wisdom teeth remained. And much like our tonsils and our appendix, wisdom teeth can cause more problems than they're worth. That goes double for extra wisdom teeth.

What if I Have More than Four Wisdom Teeth?

So, most people are stuck with four unnecessary wisdom teeth. However, a rare few might have fewer or none at all – a lucky mutation you can pass along to your kids. And there's a slim chance some people might have more than four.

The good news is that your dental professionals will probably detect these supernumerary teeth on digital X-rays. Detection can aid you in:

  • Determining if medical tests are necessary as the teeth might be markers of genetic conditions.
  • Alerting you to oral health conditions that result in pain, oral health conditions, and orthodontic issues
  • Preparing you for oral surgeries necessary to deal with the teeth, including pulling them

Did You Know? Supernumerary teeth can occur elsewhere in the mouth, too. It's possible to have extra incisors, canines, and other duplicate molars.

Why Are Most Wisdom Teeth Pulled?

By the time your first four (and most likely, only) wisdom teeth arrive, not enough room in the jaw exists to accommodate them. This lack of space can result in wisdom teeth:

  • Unable to move into position since other teeth are in the way
  • Aligning horizontally in the jaw or otherwise misplaced, preventing them from emerging from the jawbone

If wisdom teeth can't erupt into the mouth, they could be impacted, which leads to symptoms such as:

  • Stiffness or pain in the jaw
  • Swelling, inflammation, and infection of gum tissue
  • Painful or sensitive gums caused by partially erupted teeth

If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, you know the right thing to do: See your dentist as soon as possible. You'll usually get a referral to an oral surgeon to remove the impacted tooth. Other reasons for removal include that your wisdom teeth are:

  • Irritating parts of your mouth
  • Causing other teeth to move out of position
  • Likely to cause problems once they erupt based on X-rays showing abnormal third-molar positioning

Once an oral surgeon removes your wisdom teeth, expect the recovery time to last 2-10 days, depending on the degree of difficulty of the surgery and the amount of swelling and pain you experience afterward. And if your dental professional discovers extra wisdom teeth, your oral surgeon can remove them, as well.

So, while your permanent teeth can't grow back if extracted – or if you lose them via trauma – there's a rare chance you might have an extra set of teeth lying in wait. While that might have been a good thing for our early ancestors, it can pose a problem in the 21st century. By getting dental X-rays to alert you to the possibility of extra wisdom teeth and problem wisdom teeth, you'll be in the best position to benefit your oral and overall health. Be aware that extractions of four – or more – wisdom teeth require trust in an oral surgeon and a sufficient recovery time. It's very wise of you to learn all you can.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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