You Better Wise Up…About Wisdom Teeth!

Third molars, prehistoric chompers, painful nuisances…we’re talking about wisdom teeth! You’ve probably known someone who has had their wisdom teeth removed, but what are these mysterious molars and why do they need to be removed?  Let’s be wise and learn more!

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Between the age of 16 to 25, most people develop a third set of molars that are also known as wisdom teeth.  As such, wisdom teeth are often called the third molars by dentists. Most adults have 4 total wisdom teeth (two on the bottom and two on top).  

Interestingly, these teeth are positively prehistoric!  Looking back, our early ancestors had a larger jaw and subsisted on a diet of chewy leaves, roots, and raw meat.  As man evolved to have larger brains, our diet became softer and more processed, and our jaws shrunk. The wisdom teeth stuck around though, but with less space to accommodate them.

Why Do They Need to Be Removed?

Some people never develop wisdom teeth, while others have all four wisdom teeth come in without issue.  Unfortunately, for many adults, discomfort or pain coincides with their wisdom teeth coming in, or “erupting.”  When wisdom teeth are impacted, they come in at an angle and push against the gum or adjacent tooth (again, because our modern jaws are smaller). This can lead to pain and to a disrupted bite alignment, as well as cause health issues such as infection, tooth decay, and gum disease. Here are some of the common signs that your wisdom teeth are erupting:

  • Pain at back of the mouth.  The pain will continue to increase as the teeth grow and press on nerves or crowd other teeth.
  • Redness, tenderness, and swelling at gum site where tooth is erupting.
  • If infected:
    • Bad breath
    • Foul taste in mouth while chewing
    • Jaw pain and stiffness
    • General illness

In rare cases, an impacted wisdom tooth that is left without treatment can develop cysts or sometimes tumors.

While there is some debate as to whether or not wisdom teeth need to be removed if they are not causing pain, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends removing any wisdom teeth that are diseased or at risk for developing disease.  Monitoring the development of wisdom teeth and making a decision by age 25 to minimize potential complications and pain is advised.  Patients should be aware of the greater difficulty associated with removal of their wisdom teeth as they age.

Wisdom Teeth Monitoring Falmouth Dental Arts

So…be wise and talk to Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos about your own or your child’s wisdom teeth!  Early treatment greatly reduces the risk of complications later and helps keep you and your mouth healthy and happy.

If your wisdom teeth are causing you discomfort, or if you have questions about how your children’s wisdom teeth are developing, give us a call at 207.781.5900.  

* Image courtesy of