What are wisdom teeth and should I get mine out?

How much do you know about wisdom teeth? It might surprise you to know that pain related to wisdom teeth is one of the most common reasons people visit the dentist. The third set of molars to emerge from the gums, wisdom teeth can be problematic, causing pain, swelling, and infection even if your oral hygiene is good.  

We all grow two sets of teeth over the course of our lifetimes, beginning with the baby teeth, which are gradually replaced with 32 permanent teeth. The last permanent teeth to appear in the mouth ae the wisdom teeth, which come in between the ages of 18 and 25. In days past, people erroneously assumed that wisdom also developed around that time, which is how they got the name. Wisdom teeth are the teeth furthest back in the mouth, and most people have four of them. Many people have fewer, maybe only one to three wisdom teeth and a lucky few have none at all.  

Why do we grow wisdom teeth, if we don’need them? We probably used to need them, but with the evolution of our diet to food that doesn’t wear down the teeth as much, our other teeth have become larger. This means less room in the jaw and not enough space for wisdom teeth to erupt normally. As a result, they can become impacted, emerging at an abnormal angle. This causes pain, either by pressing on the second molar or by remaining partially erupted, which leads to a pocket in the gum where food can collect, causing infection and tooth decay.  

If an infection is left untreated, it can spread into the face and neck, sometimes becoming lifethreatening. In some rare cases, tissue around the impacted wisdom teeth can develop cysts or tumors. Because impacted wisdom teeth never become fully functional, the best way to prevent them from becoming a problem is to remove them, usually through oral surgery.  

Not everyone should have their wisdom teeth removed; if they grow in normally, there’s no reason to do it. Around the time that wisdom teeth normally emerge, your dentist will x-ray your mouth to check on yours. He or she will then be able to recommend removal, if needed, and determine the best time to perform the surgery, for minimal risk.  

At Park 56 Dental Group, we provide personalized, quality dental care in a spa-like environment. We offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.