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Wisdom Teeth – Reasons, Complications, Solutions

Excerpt: Wisdom teeth either may or may not come in between the ages of...
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What Are Wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are also referred to as third molars. Not everyone will grow in wisdom teeth, but if you do grow them in, it is usually between the ages of 18-25.

Wisdom Teeth Fast Facts

  • About half of all people grow wisdom teeth.
  • Wisdom teeth are also referred to as “third molars”.
  • They are called “wisdom teeth”, because they grow in last when you are at your wisest.

How often do people grow wisdom teeth?

You may not realize this, but people are actually born with all the teeth they will ever have, the teeth are just higher up in the skull and have not yet erupted into the mouth. Typically, an individual will have 52 teeth, 20 teeth will be “baby teeth”, these teeth are meant to grow in at a young age, then fall out. 32 teeth will be permanent “adult teeth”, the adult teeth do not have any replacements and are your final set of teeth. However, in some people, (at least one study has shown approximately 53% of people) grow in the third set of molars after the age of 17.

Some people may have wisdom teeth, but the teeth will never erupt from below the gum line, or cause any dental issues so it wouldn’t be necessary to remove them.


About 53% of people grow in wisdom teeth, you might even have wisdom teeth and never even know they were there.

Wisdom tooth in vice grips

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Get Removed?

As the human race grows and changes over time, so do our bodies, this is called evolution. Not all adaptations are kept though, if an adaptation has evolved but is no longer needed, it will eventually be discarded. This is what scientists believe happened with wisdom teeth. Thousands of years ago when our diet consisted of tougher, less-cooked foods, we needed to be able to break them down better to maximize our nutrient intake. However, at some point in time, our brains became bigger, and it’s believed our jaws decreased in size. Then as techniques improved to make food easier to digest, we no longer needed bigger stronger jaws and more teeth. Now we are at the point where the wisdom teeth aren’t needed, but our bodies have not had time to evolve to catch up to the new requirements. This, of course, is over a time period of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years (you probably won’t need wisdom teeth tomorrow).

The slow pace of physical evolution in our bodies is to be blamed for the inconvenience of possibly having to get your wisdom teeth removed. 


If you don’t get your wisdom teeth removed, it could potentially lead to these problems:


  • Crooked teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Wisdom teeth growing sideways
  • Increased tooth decay
  • Jaw pain
  • Cysts under the gums and possibly tumors
If any of these complications do arise, then you will need to have your wisdom teeth removed.


We get our wisdom teeth generally due to overcrowding. Our physiological evolution has not had the time to catch up to our modern-day dietary needs.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Symptoms

If you are part of the 53% of people that grow in wisdom teeth, and they grow in impacted, this can potentially be terrible for the rest of your mouth. As we previously discussed, if your mouth only has room for the standard set of teeth, then the extra set of molars will have either no room or not enough room to grow in.

Since the effects of impacted wisdom teeth are pretty severe, the symptoms are very noticeable:
  • Pain or swelling around the jaw.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
  • Bad breath (halitosis).
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • Problems opening your mouth.
If your wisdom teeth do grow in, but never erupt from the gum line, then the condition is known as having fully impacted wisdom teeth.
Woman with toothache

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Risk Factors

Unlike many dental issues, impacted wisdom teeth cannot be prevented as the wisdom teeth are set that way from birth. The dentist may be able to assess your risk of impacted wisdom teeth based on a number of factors. Although, they won’t know for sure until the wisdom teeth are actually ready to come in.

How are impacted wisdom diagnosed?

X-rays are the only way to tell if a wisdom tooth may be growing in the wrong way. If the dental x-rays are showing that there is a possibility of impacted wisdom teeth, the dentist may opt to remove them early if it’s a possibility. 

Wisdom tooth x-ray

How are impacted wisdom teeth treated?

There is really only one option to treat an impacted wisdom tooth, and that is via dental extraction. The surgery will have varying degrees of complications based on how much the wisdom teeth have or haven’t erupted. If the wisdom teeth are fully impacted and have not erupted at all an oral surgeon could be needed to extract the teeth as the process may be beyond the skill set of a general dentist. Quite often, the general dentist will be able to perform the extraction as it is a common procedure that they are trained for.

Since the surgery is often quite intrusive, you will most likely be sedated:
  • Local anesthesia to numb your mouth.
  • Sedation to relax you and block most pain.
  • Deep sedation to make you sleep and not feel anything during the procedure.


In order to treat wisdom teeth, the patient will be sedated, and the teeth must be surgically removed.

Wisdom teeth – complications

There are quite a few serious complications with wisdom teeth:

  • Infection
  • Cavities
  • Decay
  • Crowding of nearby teeth
  • Difficulty flossing
  • Damage to other teeth
  • Cysts
  • Gum disease

Frequently Asked Questions

The cost of extraction will depend on the difficulty of the procedure. A oral surgeon will be more then a dentist, but a dentist can also have varying prices for extraction

It’s considered an emergency once the teeth are showing symptoms. If the patient feels pain or discomfort from them the symptoms won’t go away until they are removed.

Regular dental checkups with x-rays are the only way to see if a wisdom tooth will need extraction.

53% of people on average will grow in their wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25. This subset of people is most at risk.

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