The third molars, commonly known as “wisdom teeth,” are the last of our teeth to come in. They derive their nickname from the fact that for most of us, they come in (or “erupt”) as we are maturing into adults. The reality, however, is that sometimes they erupt much later, and sometimes not at all. Their appearance (or absence) may be based on a number of factors, including genetics, their position in the mouth, and even the shifting of other teeth in the mouth as we get older. As many as 35 percent of us don’t have wisdom teeth at all.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Such an Issue?
Theories are abundant, but many scientists surmise that wisdom teeth are a holdover from our evolutionary ancestors. Back in the times when we survived on raw foods — roots, leaves, raw meat, etc. — it made sense to have three sets of molars in our mouths. Once we discovered fire and started cooking our food, we stopped needing that many teeth. Gradually our jawbones began narrowing, leaving less room for wisdom teeth to erupt. For some of us, our wisdom teeth come in naturally, correctly and properly positioned. More of us encounter problems in the mouth when wisdom teeth come in (or try unsuccessfully to erupt); in these cases, the wisdom teeth usually need to be removed to prevent complications. A few of us never see them. Some scientists predict eventually wisdom teeth will disappear entirely from our genetic code.
How Late Can Wisdom Teeth Appear?
For most people, wisdom teeth begin showing up between the ages of 17 and 25. However, many people don’t see them until later — sometimes much later. There have been reports of people seeing their wisdom teeth erupting as late as their 50s and 60s.
What If My Wisdom Teeth Don’t Come In “On Time”?
If you don’t see your wisdom teeth emerge by your mid-20s, don’t assume they won’t come in or that you don’t have any. Quite often, wisdom teeth remain below the surface of the gum and become impacted, meaning they have no room to erupt or that they are pushing inward against the other teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to serious problems down the line and should be extracted. Even if you are experiencing no pain or symptoms, impacted wisdom teeth could be doing damage in your mouth. A trusted dentist or oral surgeon can evaluate the status of your wisdom teeth with an examination and X-rays.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or have concerns about your wisdom teeth, we can help. Give Riverside Oral Facial Surgery a call at (706) 235-5570 to discuss your options.