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Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to develop in your mouth. These are the last set of molars to arrive—showing up after your incisors, canines, premolars and molars have made their debut. The first molars erupt in your mouth by the time you are six, and the second molars erupt around age 12. Wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17-21, and sit behind the molars.

Nicknamed “wisdom teeth”, these come in just as you are maturing into adulthood (in your late teens or early twenties) at the age when people become wiser. They have been called “teeth of wisdom” since the 17th Century. The nickname was shortened to “wisdom teeth” in the 19th Century. Research shows that the brain continues to develop through the twenties, and the decision-making, or rational part of the brain–the prefrontal cortex–isn’t fully developed until age 25, so the name is actually quite apt!

It is possible to never have any problem with the wisdom teeth, and if they are not causing misalignment, they can be left alone. But since they are in the back of the mouth, they can be hard to clean, and difficult to brush and floss thoroughly. This can make them vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease as they are a magnet for plaque-causing bacteria. For example, if a wisdom tooth is partially erupted, it may be susceptible to infection, known as pericoronitis, where bacteria from food, plaque and debris is trapped in the space between the impacted tooth and the gums.

Misalignment can occur because of the location of your wisdom teeth, which crowds surrounding teeth, as well as the jawbone or nerves. Because of this, and their potential to cause pain and infection, your dentist may recommend removal. The earlier they are removed, the better, as the bone is not as dense and the roots not yet fully developed when you are younger. Having your wisdom teeth removed when you are older may risk damaging the inferior alveolar nerve, which is a major nerve situated near the lower jawbone. To help decide if your wisdom teeth need to be removed, X-rays will be taken.

If you have any questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, consult with your dentist to maintain your healthy smile! You can reach our team at Mockingbird Dental Associates at (770) 386-3908.