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Wisdom Teeth seem to get a lot of attention – and for all the wrong reasons. These large 3rd molars are located way at the back of the mouth and have a reputation of causing discomfort and hampering the health of other teeth.
Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth? Referred to as ‘teeth of wisdom’ since the 17th century – Wisdom Teeth became the usual term adopted in the 19th century to describe these late erupting teeth that emerge between the age of 16 to 24 – when we ‘supposedly’ have gained more wisdom. Now keep in mind that the average life expectancy of a person living in the 17th century was only forty (39.7 to be exact) so being considered wise by the age of twenty does seem relative. But for those of us enjoying life in the 21st century with an average global life expectancy of 73 – dealing with pesky wisdom teeth as a teenager just doesn’t add up. The eruption of Wisdom Teeth doesn’t seem to have become any easier over the years – with many patients seeking dental treatment to address the associated concerns.
Partially Erupted Wisdom Teeth All teeth erupt at an expected time and position in the mouth. Tooth eruption is a process that consists of fast and slow periods – fast moving out of the jaw bone and slower as the tooth moves through mucosal tissue (gum). The eruption process can be further slowed by the tooth’s inability to create a strong pathway for eruption. Due to the size and location of Wisdom Teeth the eruption pathway can be blocked or hampered by the position of other molars – resulting in a lack of space for the final eruption phase to occur. If the eruption process slows dramatically the signal to erupt can be lost – leaving teeth partially in bone and partially erupted through soft tissue. Partial eruption of Wisdom Teeth can pose problems as they are prone to becoming infected. Covered by a flap of gum – teeth and tissue become inflamed due to food debris and plaque getting caught under the remaining flap of tissue. A condition known as Pericoronitis develops – and requires the extraction of teeth to treat the inflammation and infection.
Wisdom Teeth Can Cause Crowding Crowding of other teeth is a real concern during the eruption of Wisdom Teeth. Not wanting to be left out of the party, Wisdom Teeth will elbow other teeth out of the way to secure their position at the back of the mouth. The resulting pressure on other molars can cause teeth to become crowded at the front of the mouth and for the roots of other molars to be eroded. Once radiographically diagnosed as being a potential dental health risk – extraction of Wisdom Teeth is recommended to protect the alignment and vitality of other teeth.