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Your smile is impacted by your healthy set of teeth, including your wisdom teeth. Your wisdom teeth come in last, they are the third and last set of molars, after your incisors, canines, premolars and molars. The first molars erupt by the time you are six, and the second molars come in around age 12. Wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17-21 and are situated behind the molars.

They are nicknamed “wisdom teeth” because they come in when you are maturing into adulthood, in your late teens or early twenties, at the age when people become wiser. They have been referred to “teeth of wisdom” since the 17th Century, earning their current shortened version, “wisdom teeth”, in the 19th Century. More recent research shows that the brain continues to develop through the twenties, and the decision-making, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until age 25.

Some people never seem to have any problem with their wisdom teeth, and if they are not causing misalignment, can be left alone. Because they are in the back they can be hard to clean when it comes to brushing and flossing properly. Pericoronitis can occur when a partially erupted wisdom tooth becomes susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease where bacteria from food, plaque and debris is trapped in the areas between the impacted tooth and the gums.

Because of their location they can also be misaligned, which can crowd the surrounding teeth, as well as the jawbone or nerves. Because they can cause pain and infection, your dentist may recommend removal, and the earlier this is done, the better. The earlier they are removed, the bone is not as dense and the roots not yet fully developed. 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, called the mandible. To help decide if wisdom teeth require removal, 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 the team at Dr. Gary Breece’s office at 580-233-2557.