The removal of wisdom teeth is a rite 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.
What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?
Purpose of Wisdom Teeth
According to the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, 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.
At What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?
Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent teeth to make an appearance. For most people, they typically erupt 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, the official periodical academic journal of the Korean Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, notes that the entire process takes several 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 appear first.
Signs of Eruption
According to the United Kingdom Oral Health Foundation, you could experience some pain and discomfort as your wisdom teeth break through. Fortunately, that should cease after the 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. Consult your dentist about the right medication for you.
Some have no wisdom teeth at all, or they just never fully erupt, while others (usually 17-25 years old) may experience problems that include:
- Lingering pain
- Pressure in back jaw
- 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 are:
- For preventive measures, so your mouth isn't overcrowded, leading to plaque build-up, tooth cavities, or gum problems.
- 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 recommended to do so by your dentist. 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 tumours. 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 in Maryland, United States, 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.