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If your child is nearing their late teens, perhaps you’ve started thinking about wisdom teeth. Aptly named because they are the last teeth to emerge in most people’s mouths, wisdom teeth often start to come in about a decade after your last baby tooth is lost. Almost every dentist and orthodontist will recommend having wisdom teeth extracted before they begin to fully grow in, but have you ever wondered why? If you’d like to know more about these pesky molars, read on as we lay out some fast facts on your final set of pearly whites.

1. Not everyone has wisdom teeth.

Some 35 percent of people will never grow their third molars and the other 65 percent of us will have anywhere from one to four (or, rarely, even more!) of these molars. Whether or not you develop them comes down mostly to your genetic makeup. Indigenous Mexicans, for example, have nearly a 0 percent chance of growing third molars! If your parents or siblings have grown them, the chances are good that you will, too.

2. Evolutionarily speaking, we haven’t needed wisdom teeth for thousands of years.

Wisdom teeth were important back when humans ate a lot of raw meat and tough plants like roots, but with the advent of cooking and farming, the need for these grinders has become obsolete. Some scientists believe that most humans may evolve to no longer grow wisdom teeth within the next few centuries.

3. It’s important for most people to have their wisdom teeth extracted.

Wisdom tooth extraction is the most common type of tooth removal performed by dentists, and not without good reason. Keeping your wisdom teeth can lead to several dental diseases including:

  • Tooth Decay: Wisdom teeth are highly susceptible to cavities which, left untreated, can lead to inflammation of the dental pulp and eventual rotting of the tooth root.
  • Pericoronitis: If a wisdom tooth erupts, the surrounding tissue may become inflamed and painful in a condition known as pericoronitis. This can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth and may be accompanied by swelling of the gums.
  • Impacted Teeth: If a wisdom tooth does not fully erupt, it can easily become infected and inflamed, causing pain and health problems. Infections can spread easily from the wisdom tooth to surrounding teeth, spreading the damage beyond just the new tooth.

4. While it’s most common to see wisdom teeth in your late teens or early twenties, they can erupt at any point in your life!

The Guinness Book of World Records states that the latest known appearance of wisdom teeth happened in a 94 year old patient! If you’ve passed your twenties without having your wisdom teeth removed, it’s still important to talk to your dentist about the possibility of them erupting later in your life. Wisdom teeth can damage the mouth at any age, so keeping up to date with your dentist is the best way to prevent problems from them growing in!

Wisdom teeth—and their removal—are a dental rite of passage for many of us. If you think it’s time to talk to your dentist about having yours removed, or if you have more questions about the process to have them extracted, give us a call at TruBlu Dentistry in Burbank, Chicago, or Hegewisch today!

Be proud of your smile.