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What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The removal of wisdom teeth— It’s a right of passage for many dental patients. But is every wisdom teeth story a unique one? Definitely. Including when your wisdom teeth come in and when you need to get them out.

Purpose of Wisdom Teeth

According to the Smithsonian Institution, hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago, our wisdom teeth were meant to help us chew. They allowed early humans to grind away on tougher food items when our jaws were wider and could accommodate our last molars. Today, it's a different story. Over time, we've developed smaller jaws — which often means less room for the final molars to erupt.

What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last of the permanent teeth to make an appearance. They typically will erupt for most between the ages of 17 and 21.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, they show up during your high school and college years — but wisdom teeth start growing at a much earlier age, usually 7-10 years old. A study from Imaging Science in Dentistry notes the entire process takes years and is unique:

  • The tooth calcifies
  • The crown begins to form
  • The root develops
  • And finally, the teeth emerge through the gums

Men typically see their wisdom teeth before women. And it's usually the upper molars that are appearing first.

Signs of Eruption

According to the Oral Health Foundation, it's possible you could experience some pain and discomfort as your wisdom teeth breakthrough. Fortunately, that should cease after the tooth and teeth have fully emerged. Some don't experience any symptoms at all. If you experience soreness or pain, over-the-counter pain relievers or gently swishing warm saltwater in the mouth usually does the trick.

Some have no wisdom teeth at all, or they just never fully erupt. While some, usually 17-25 years old, experience problems that include:

  • Lingering pain
  • Pressure in back jaw
  • Or gum swelling

Reasons for Extraction

The British Journal of General Practice found that 80% of dental patients 70 years old or younger need to get their wisdom teeth removed. The numbers don't lie. And there are good reasons for removal. The most common:

  • For preventive measures, so your mouth isn't overcrowded, leading to plaque buildup, decay, or gum disease
  • The tooth is unable to break through the gums and has become impacted, leading to increased pain, swelling, and infection

It would be wise to remove a wisdom tooth when it's recommended. According to the British Journal of General Practice study, not removing them can cause pericoronitis, an infection in the tissues surrounding a partially emerged tooth. It's even possible nearby tooth roots can be damaged, resulting in tumors. So listen to your dentist — they've got your teeth's best interest in mind.

When to Consult Your Dentist

If you're seeing your dentist regularly, you're ahead of the game. Your doctor will be monitoring your third molars should they need attention or removal. And it also doesn't hurt to start having the wisdom teeth conversation (scenarios, possibilities, etc.) once you hit your teen years. If a permanent tooth has not come in a year after the expected time range, Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests scheduling a visit to see your dentist. Being proactive when it comes to wisdom tooth development is crucial to ensuring quality oral health.

When the time is right, your wisdom teeth will come in. And chances are, you'll need them removed. Talk to your dentist for any questions or concerns you may have about your wisdom teeth.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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