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The state of your oral health is reflected by the condition of your teeth and gums. The first to be seen when you flash your pearly whites, they mirror what is going on in your mouth. All your teeth, including the ones in the back which are never seen, are vital for good oral health, even your “wisdom teeth”.

Wisdom teeth are the last of your teeth that emerge. These final set of molars show up after your incisors, canines, premolars and molars have come in. As your teeth come through, by the time you are six, the first molars erupt in your mouth with the second molars erupting around age 12. Wisdom teeth generally come in between the ages of 17-21.

Why “Wisdom Teeth”?
Nicknamed “wisdom teeth”, these come in just as you are maturing into adulthood at the age when people generally become “wiser.” Known as the “teeth of wisdom” in the 17th Century, they have been called “wisdom teeth” since the 19th Century. Research shows that the brain continues to develop through your twenties. The decision-making, or rational part of your brain–the prefrontal cortex–isn’t fully developed until age 25, so you really are wiser by the time the wisdom teeth come in!

Can I keep them?
Not everyone develops problems with their wisdom teeth, and they don’t always need to be removed. However, there are risks with keeping them in. Sitting so far back, they are harder to clean, making brushing and flossing difficult. This can make them vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease as they can be a haven for bacteria. In the case of a partially erupted wisdom tooth, it may be susceptible to pericoronitis—which is an infection from bacteria created from food, plaque and debris trapped in the space between the impacted tooth and the gums.

A common problem with wisdom teeth is misalignment, which happens because where they are located can crowd surrounding teeth, as well as jawbone or nerves. Because of this misalignment and their potential to cause pain and infection, your dentist may recommend removal of your wisdom teeth.

If removal is advised, the earlier the better, as the bone is not as dense and the roots not yet fully developed when one is younger. Removing wisdom teeth when older can risk damaging the inferior alveolar nerve, a major nerve situated near the lower jawbone.

Your dentist will take X-rays to decide if your wisdom teeth need removal. If you have any questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, you can reach Dr. Derek Barnes and his dental team today at 704-849-6700.