Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
Teeth typically erupt in stages, starting from incisors and canines to premolars, and molars. Children will develop an initial set of teeth, lose it, and replace it with another set. Wisdom teeth are the last group of teeth to appear, and they develop at the back of the mouth.
Most young adults receive their wisdom teeth between 17-21. The teeth are named wisdom because they appear when young people join college and learn to be independent. Many people will get four wisdom teeth, but it is normal to have less than four or none at all. By the time the wisdom teeth emerge, the conditions are already very crowded.
Why You May Not Have Wisdom Teeth
Although wisdom teeth were once essential for an early human diet of nuts, roots, meat, and leaves, these third set of molars are no longer necessary. Today, our diet consists of softer food that’s easy to crush. So why do we have them if we don’t need them?
Studies show that wisdom teeth are a leftover relic of human evolution. The development of cooking equipment means that people can now prepare softer food, making wisdom teeth redundant. Scientists also attribute the variation of the number of wisdom teeth to lineage and genetics. For example, Asian Americans and African Americans are more likely to have less than four wisdom teeth than individuals of European descent. Your dentist will analyze an X-ray to determine if you have wisdom teeth.
What if My Wisdom Teeth Have Not Erupted?
Sometimes, wisdom teeth get trapped in the jaw or under the gums and fail to erupt fully. If a wisdom tooth does not erupt correctly, it may become impacted and result in infection, nerve damage, or pain.
The primary reason for non-erupted wisdom teeth is insufficient room in the oral cavity. An adjacent second molar can also discourage a wisdom tooth from emerging. If your wisdom teeth have not emerged, your dentists will use X-rays and clinical examinations to forecast their eruption and determine if removal is necessary.
When to See Your Dentist
Every person is different, and you will not know precisely when your wisdom teeth will emerge. The most common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth is pain at the back of your mouth, although some people do not feel pain. While you can expect some gum or jaw pain, do not ignore intense pain that could indicate an abscessed tooth.
Wisdom teeth removal reduces the chances of:
- Loss of bone support
- Nerve pain
- Shifting teeth
What to Expect During Removal
Most dentists recommend getting your wisdom teeth taken out, even if they are not causing any problems. While they can exist in your mouth without issues, they may cause problems later when they are harder to remove.
Your dentist will use an X-ray to see how your wisdom teeth are aligned and determine if there is sufficient space for them to grow. The extraction process is straightforward and done under anesthesia.
If your tooth is not fully erupted, the dentist will make a small incision in your gum to access it. The oral surgeon may cut the tooth into smaller bits to make removal easier. They may also remove the bone that blocks access to the tooth root.
You can expect pain, swelling, and bleeding, and you should not brush for 24 hours. You should also stick to soft food during this time and refrain from tobacco use for at least 72 hours.
Common complications include:
- Swelling and redness: You can expect some swelling when your wisdom teeth are erupting through your gums. The swelling can worsen if there are trapped food particles around the area. If it does not reduce after using cold compresses, it is best to consult your dentist.
- Pain: You will likely experience some discomfort when wisdom teeth are growing in. A dentist can also determine if the pain is due to gum disease, cavities, or cysts. Some people also report pressure at the back of the mouth or a throbbing feeling.
- Impaction: Wisdom teeth that remain trapped under the gum or in the jaw can quickly become impacted. Food and bacteria may become trapped in partially-erupted wisdom teeth and result in decay. Consult a dentist if you have trouble opening your mouth wide or you have bad breath.
- Infection: The gums around a partially-erupted wisdom tooth can trap food particles and become infected. This infection is called pericoronitis, and it results in swollen gums.
- Crowding: Wisdom teeth often lack enough space to grow correctly, leading to overcrowding of the oral cavity. The wisdom teeth may also push your other teeth around and cause even more complications.
If you don’t have wisdom teeth, there is no need to be alarmed as many people don’t develop them. The teeth mostly develop in the early teens, but if they appear when you’re older they can cause problems or become impacted. It isn’t always clear if wisdom teeth need to be removed, so be sure to keep up with your regular dental appointments for professional evaluation.