12 Surprising Facts About Wisdom Teeth: Do You Have Them?

Wisdom teeth are the third molars that usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. But not everyone has them. Find out why and what to do if you have them.

Wisdom teeth are the third molars that usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. But only some have them. Find out why and what to do if you have them.

What are wisdom teeth, and why do they cause problems?

Wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt in your mouth. They are at the back of your jaw, behind your second molars. They are called wisdom teeth because they supposedly come in when you are older and wiser.

However, wisdom teeth can also cause a lot of problems for many people. Most modern humans do not have enough space in their jaws to accommodate these extra teeth. As a result, wisdom teeth can become impacted, meaning they are trapped under the gum or bone, or they can grow at an angle, pushing against other teeth or causing infections.

Impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth can lead to various complications, such as:

  • Pain and swelling in your jaw, gums, or face
  • Difficulty opening your mouth or chewing
  • Damage to adjacent teeth or gums
  • Tooth decay or gum disease
  • Cysts or tumors in your jawbone
  • Sinus problems or headaches

To prevent these issues, many dentists recommend removing your wisdom teeth before they cause trouble. However, not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth extracted. Some people may never develop them, while others may have them without problems.

Does everyone have wisdom teeth?

The answer is no. Not everyone has wisdom teeth. In fact, according to a study by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, about 35% of people are born without one or more of their wisdom teeth.

The number and type of wisdom teeth you have depend on several factors, such as:

How many wisdom teeth can you have?

Most people have four wisdom teeth, one in each corner of their mouth. However, some people may have more or fewer than four.

Having more than four wisdom teeth is called hyperdontia, a rare condition affecting about 1% to 4% of the population. Hyperdontia can cause extra teeth to grow anywhere in your mouth, not just in the back. These extra teeth are called supernumerary teeth and can vary in shape, size, and number.

Having fewer than four wisdom teeth is called hypodontia, a common condition affecting about 20% to 25% of the population. Hypodontia can cause one or more of your permanent teeth to be missing, including your wisdom teeth. The most common missing teeth are the lateral incisors (next to your front teeth) and the second premolars (before your molars).

How to tell if you have wisdom teeth

The only way to know if you have wisdom teeth is to visit your dentist and get an X-ray of your mouth. An X-ray can show the number, position, and shape of your wisdom teeth and any potential problems they may cause.

Some signs that you may have wisdom teeth are:

  • Feeling some pain or pressure in the back of your jaw
  • Having swollen, red, or bleeding gums around your molars
  • Having bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Having difficulty opening your mouth or biting
  • Having an infection or abscess in your mouth

However, these signs are not always reliable, as some people may have wisdom teeth without any symptoms, while others may have similar symptoms due to other dental issues. Therefore, it’s best to consult your dentist if you have concerns about your wisdom teeth.

What are the benefits of having wisdom teeth?

While wisdom teeth are often seen as a nuisance or a problem, they can also benefit some people. Some of the possible benefits are:

  • Providing extra chewing power and support for your jaw
  • Serving as a backup in case you lose other teeth due to injury or disease
  • Enhancing your facial appearance and smile
  • Offering stem cells that can be used for medical purposes

However, these benefits are not guaranteed and may not outweigh the risks of having wisdom teeth. For example, having extra chewing power may only be helpful if your wisdom teeth are transparent and open. Similarly, having a backup tooth may not be helpful if your wisdom tooth is decayed or infected. Therefore, you should always weigh the pros and cons of keeping or removing your wisdom teeth with your dentist.

What are the risks of having wisdom teeth?

As mentioned earlier, having wisdom teeth can also pose some risks for many people. Some of the possible bets are:

  • Causing pain and discomfort in your mouth
  • Damaging your other teeth or gums
  • Increasing the risk of tooth decay or gum disease
  • Developing cysts or tumors in your jawbone
  • Affecting your bite or alignment of your teeth
  • Interfering with orthodontic treatment or dental implants

These risks can vary depending on the individual and the condition of their wisdom teeth. Some people may have no problems with their wisdom teeth, while others may experience severe complications that require urgent treatment. Therefore, you should constantly monitor your wisdom teeth and seek professional advice if you notice any changes or problems.

When should you remove your wisdom teeth?

The decision to remove your wisdom teeth depends on several factors, such as:

  • The number, position, and shape of your wisdom teeth
  • The condition and health of your other teeth and gums
  • The presence or absence of symptoms or complications
  • Your age and general health
  • Your personal preference and expectations

There is no definitive answer to when you should remove your wisdom teeth, as different people may have different situations and opinions. Some dentists recommend removing them immediately, even before they erupt, to prevent future problems. Others may suggest waiting until they cause symptoms or complications or leaving them alone if they don’t bother you.

The best time to remove your wisdom teeth is usually between 17 and 25. This is because the roots of your wisdom teeth have yet to fully develop, making them easier to extract. Also, younger people heal faster and have fewer complications than older people.

However, this does not mean that you cannot remove your wisdom teeth at a later age. You can still have them removed at any time if they cause problems or if you want to remove them for cosmetic or personal reasons. The only difference is that the procedure may be more complex and risky, and the recovery may take longer.

How to prepare for wisdom teeth removal

If you decide to remove your wisdom teeth, you should prepare yourself for the procedure and follow some instructions from your dentist. Some of the steps you should take are:

  • Choose a qualified and experienced oral surgeon who can perform the surgery safely and effectively.
  • Discuss with your surgeon about the type of anesthesia you will receive, whether it’s local (numbing only the area), sedation (making you relaxed but awake), or general (putting you to sleep).
  • Inform your surgeon about any medical conditions or allergies you have and any medications or supplements you are taking.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery, as you may not be able to go due to the effects of anesthesia or painkillers.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything for at least six hours before the surgery, unless instructed otherwise by your surgeon.
  • Wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing, and avoid wearing any jewelry, makeup, or contact lenses on the day of the surgery.
  • Bring your insurance card, identification, and payment method to the clinic or hospital.

What to expect after wisdom teeth removal

After the surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room, where you will be monitored by the staff until you are ready to go home. You may feel some pain, swelling, bleeding, or numbness in your mouth, which is typical and expected. Your surgeon will give you instructions on how to care for your mouth and manage your discomfort. Some of the tips you should follow are:

  • Apply ice packs to your cheeks for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times daily, to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Bite on a gauze pad or a tea bag for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, changing it as needed to stop bleeding and form a blood clot in the socket.
  • Take painkillers as your surgeon prescribes, and avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen, as they can thin your blood and increase bleeding.
  • Drink plenty of water, but avoid using a straw, as it can dislodge the blood clot and cause a dry socket, which is a painful infection of the socket.
  • Eat soft and bland foods, such as soup, yogurt, mashed potatoes, or scrambled eggs, and avoid hard, crunchy, sticky, or spicy foods that can irritate your wound or get stuck in it.
  • Brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush, but avoid brushing the area of the surgery for the first few days. Also, rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times daily to keep it clean and prevent infection.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or strenuous physical activity for at least a week after the surgery, as they can slow down your healing process and increase your risk of complications.

How to care for your mouth after wisdom teeth removal

The recovery time from wisdom teeth removal varies from person to person, depending on the complexity of the surgery and the individual’s healing ability. Generally, it takes about two weeks for the wound to heal entirely and about six weeks for the bone and gum tissue to regenerate.

During this period, you should continue to care for your mouth and follow some precautions to ensure a smooth and successful recovery. Some of the things you should do are:

  • Keep track of your progress and report any signs of infection or complications to your surgeon. These include fever, severe pain, swelling that does not subside after a few days, pus or foul odor from the wound, difficulty opening your mouth or swallowing, or numbness that does not go away.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. This will help prevent plaque buildup and bacteria growth that can cause tooth decay or gum disease in your other teeth or gums.
  • Protect your teeth and gums from injury or damage by wearing a mouthguard when playing sports or any activities involving contact with your mouth. Also, avoid biting on hard objects or using your teeth as tools that can crack or chip them.
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet that supports your oral health and overall well-being. Include foods rich in calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and protein that can help strengthen your bones and tissues and promote healing. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, acid, or starch that can erode your enamel and cause cavities.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about wisdom teeth and their answers.

Can you grow wisdom teeth later in life?

Yes, it is possible to grow wisdom teeth later in life. Although most people develop their wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25, some may not have them until their 30s or even 40s. This is because the development of wisdom teeth is influenced by genetic factors that vary from person to person.

However, growing wisdom teeth later in life does not mean they are more beneficial or less problematic than those who raised them earlier. In fact, they may be more challenging to remove due to their deeper roots and denser bones. Therefore, you should still consult your dentist if you notice any signs of wisdom teeth eruption or concerns about them.

Can you keep your wisdom teeth if they don’t cause problems?

You can keep your wisdom teeth if they don’t cause problems. If your wisdom teeth are fully erupted (come out of the gum), properly aligned (not crooked or tilted), healthy (not decayed or infected), and functional (not interfering with your bite or chewing), then there is no need to remove them.

However, keeping your wisdom teeth if they don’t cause problems requires extra care and attention. You should still brush and floss your wisdom teeth regularly, as they are more prone to plaque buildup and bacteria growth due to their location and shape. You should also visit your dentist at least twice a year for check-ups and cleanings, as they can detect any signs of decay or infection in your wisdom teeth before they become serious.

How long does it take to heal from wisdom teeth removal?

The healing time from wisdom teeth removal depends on several factors, such as the number and position of your wisdom teeth, the type of anesthesia you received, the technique used by your surgeon, and your individual healing ability. Generally, it takes about two weeks for the wound to heal completely and about six weeks for the bone and gum tissue to regenerate.

During the first few days after the surgery, you may experience some pain, swelling, bleeding, or bruising in your mouth and face, which can be managed by following your surgeon’s instructions and taking painkillers as prescribed. You may also have some difficulty eating, speaking, or opening your mouth, which will improve gradually as you recover.

After a week or so, you may be able to resume your normal activities and diet as long as they don’t cause any discomfort or irritation to your wound. However, you should still avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or doing any strenuous physical activity for at least another week, as they can slow down your healing process and increase your risk of complications.

How much does it cost to remove wisdom teeth?

The cost of removing wisdom teeth varies depending on several factors, such as the number and position of your wisdom teeth, the type of anesthesia you choose, the experience and reputation of your surgeon, the location and facility of your surgery, and your insurance coverage.

According to a survey by the American Dental Association in 2019, the average cost of removing a single wisdom tooth ranged from $225 to $600, depending on whether it erupted (came out of the gum) or impacted (trapped under the gum or bone). The average cost of removing all four wisdom teeth ranged from $1,000 to $3,000.

However, these are only estimates and may not reflect the actual cost of your surgery. The best way to find out how much it will cost to remove your wisdom teeth is to consult your dentist or oral surgeon and get a personalized quote based on your specific situation and needs.

Are there any alternatives to wisdom teeth removal?

There are no real alternatives to wisdom teeth removal if they cause problems or complications. The only option is to leave them alone and hope that they don’t worsen over time. However, this is not advisable, as it can lead to more serious and costly issues in the future.

Some people may try to use home remedies or natural methods to treat their wisdom teeth symptoms or prevent their eruption. These include applying ice packs, clove oil, salt water rinses, garlic, tea tree oil, or turmeric to the affected area. However, these are not proven to be effective or safe, and they may even cause more harm than good. Therefore, you should always consult your dentist before trying any of these methods.

Can you donate your wisdom teeth for research or stem cells?

Yes, you can donate your wisdom teeth for research or stem cells. Wisdom teeth are a valuable source of stem cells, which are immature cells that can develop into different types of cells and tissues in the body. Stem cells have many potential applications in medicine, such as repairing damaged organs, treating diseases, or creating new drugs.

There are several organizations that collect and store wisdom teeth for research or stem cell purposes. Some examples are:

  • [BioEden]: A company that extracts stem cells from baby teeth and wisdom teeth and preserves them in a cryogenic bank for future use by the donor or their family members.
  • [Stemodontics]: A company that harvests stem cells from wisdom teeth and stores them in a laboratory for future use by the donor or their family members.
  • [National Dental Pulp Laboratory]: A non-profit organization that collects dental pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth) from baby teeth and wisdom teeth and donates them to researchers who study various diseases and conditions.
  • [Wisdom Tooth Project]: A research project by the University of Pittsburgh that collects wisdom teeth from volunteers who undergo extraction and uses them to study how stem cells can regenerate bone tissue.

If you are interested in donating your wisdom teeth for research or stem cells, you should contact one of these organizations and find out their requirements and procedures. You should also discuss with your dentist or oral surgeon about how they can help you with the donation process.

Conclusion: Wisdom teeth are a common dental issue that affects many people

Wisdom teeth are the third molars that usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. But not everyone has them. Some people may have more or fewer than four, while others may never develop them at all.

Whether you have wisdom teeth or not, it’s important to know the facts and consult your dentist for the best course of action. Wisdom teeth can have some benefits, such as providing extra chewing power or offering stem cells, but they can also pose some risks, such as causing pain, infection, or damage to your other teeth or gums.

If you decide to remove your wisdom teeth, you should prepare yourself for the procedure and follow some instructions from your surgeon. The recovery time may vary from person to person, but generally, it takes about two weeks for the wound to heal and about six weeks for the bone and gum tissue to regenerate.

Wisdom teeth are a common dental issue that affects many people. Whether you have them or not, it’s important to know the facts and consult your dentist for the best course of action.

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