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What are wisdom teeth?

With age usually comes wisdom–including wisdom teeth! Third molars, or wisdom teeth, are the latest permanent molars to erupt, typically when a person is in his or her “wiser” years. According to the American Dental Association, the majority of people have lost all their baby teeth and have their first and second permanent molars (the big teeth in the back of the mouth) by the age of 13.  Wisdom teeth, however, grow into the mouth at a later state of young adulthood, typically by ages 17-21. They are the final set of upper and lower molars–the ones furthest toward the back of the mouth. To learn more, read this article and/or view a video from the American Association of Orthodontists featuring Dr. Lee Graber.

Does everyone have wisdom teeth?

While it is most common for people to have at least one wisdom tooth, not everyone develops third molars.  Evolution and genetics have a large role to play in the presence or absence of wisdom teeth, as missing molars may be a family trait that has been inherited. Research has shown that people of Asian descent have more missing wisdom teeth than than those from European ancestry. Females are a bit more likely to be missing one or more third molars than males.

If I have wisdom teeth, do I need to have them removed?

Not necessarily! Some people have enough room in their mouths for their third molars to erupt naturally and will not need them removed. The majority, however, just do not have enough room at the back of their mouth to allow these teeth to grow in normally. This can result in the wisdom teeth growing in partially or not at all. The result is that many individuals will be recommended to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their lives.

How do I know if I my wisdom teeth are a problem?

As a patient in our orthodontic office, we evaluate wisdom teeth as a part of our overall measurement of the jaw space available for teeth.  Even though these teeth usually grow in after teen orthodontic treatment is completed, we will make recommendations to keep them or have one or more removed.  For those who are not seeing us as patients, soreness or pain in the back of the mouth can be a sign that it is time to check your wisdom teeth. A special dental x-ray will reveal if there are any underlying issues and if any action needs to be taken.

What happens if I need to have my wisdom teeth extracted?

X-rays are the best way to show the position and direction of growth of wisdom teeth. At Graber & Gyllenhaal Orthodontics, Drs. Lee & Katie Graber and Dr. Kelley Gyllenhaal use 3 dimensional low radiation exposure technology to get a picture of the third molars as they grow. In the event that they need to be removed, an oral surgeon would complete the procedure in his or her office under anesthesia. If wisdom teeth need to be removed, it is usually easier to have this done before they grow long roots which would anchor them more into the jaw bone. By following their development, we can suggest if and when they need to be removed.

Wisdom teeth can be a pain – literally – but seeing your orthodontist and dentist regularly and monitoring the molars is the best way to stay ahead of any problems that may arise. If you are in the Glenview or Vernon Hills area, give Graber & Gyllenhaal Orthodontics a call today and schedule your appointment!