Word to the Wise: Wisdom Teeth
Ouch! Why are those four molars at the very back of your mouth hurting you? Well, those molars (another word for your bigger back teeth) are actually called "wisdom teeth" - and they can be painful when they're growing in.
AND, if you're like most people, you'll probably have your wisdom teeth pulled out at some point - either one, two, three or all four. That can be even more painful than when they're coming in! So what exactly are wisdom teeth and, if they've got to come out, why do they even bother growing in at all???
Tooth for Thought
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that usually develop when you’re in your teens (between the ages of 17 and 21), at which time, you will suddenly become all-knowing and very, very wise. Just kidding. These teeth- which are the very last to grow in - serve no purpose, except to possibly cause serious pain and irritation.
In many people, wisdom teeth are unable to grow in normally. They either become stuck under the gum or are only able to partially break through the gum. Dentists call these teeth impacted. Wisdom teeth usually become impacted because the jaw doesn't have enough space for all the teeth that are growing in or because the tooth comes in at the wrong angle.
Impacted wisdom teeth are pretty common. Although some people never have any trouble with them, impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems. It’s really hard to brush these teeth because they’re so far back in the mouth. And, because they are so hard to clean, tartar and plaque build-up, combined with food getting stuck underneath the gum, can cause cavities, infection and inflammation in your mouth. It can even cause - ugh - bad breath.
Another problem with wisdom teeth is that your mouth may not have enough room for them. Every jaw is different, so when your wisdom teeth appear (and most people get ’em - very few don't), your dentist can determine if your jaw is wide enough to accommodate the extra teeth. But you’ll definitely want them removed if you experience infection, pain or impaction, in which they are blocked completely or partially from breaking through the gum.
Brace For It
And if you’ve had braces, wisdom teeth can make straight teeth crooked. Best to get ’em out. Most dentists and oral surgeons will recommend removing your wisdom teeth - especially if they're impacted, because they may damage other teeth, or cause pain or infection.