Just when you have all those pearly whites lined up and prepare to enter adulthood, along come wisdom teeth. Predicting what wisdom teeth will do is a key element of orthodontic treatment, so here is a word to the wise about wisdom teeth.
Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth usually erupt when people are between the ages of 17 and 25. However, they can also come through much later, or not at all.
They were given the name “teeth of wisdom” in the 17th century as their arrival coincides with entry into adulthood. In the 19th century this was shortened to wisdom teeth.
Most people have four wisdom teeth – one in each quadrant of the mouth.
Wisdom teeth were utilised by humans at a time when our diet involved the consumption of more plant foliage, with these large back teeth helping us grind through plant tissue. It is believed we used to have larger jaws to accommodate them, but the jaw has become smaller over the past 10,000 years since the advent of agriculture and a soft diet.
By the time wisdom teeth are ready to make their appearance, the human jaw has often reached its maximum size, leaving little room for these late entrants. They can also enter at an angle, pushing up against other teeth and causing pain, and irritation to the gum and cheeks. This scenario is known as impaction and can lead to infection, tooth decay and swelling of the lymph glands.
For this reason, it is important to maintain regular dental appointments to have your wisdom teeth monitored.
Will wisdom teeth affect my braces?
The short answer is no, as long as you wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist. Not all people are affected adversely by the arrival of wisdom teeth. It just depends on the size of the jaw. If you are having orthodontic work during your mid to late teens or as a young adult, an orthodontist will monitor the eruption of wisdom teeth as part of your orthodontic plan.
Wisdom teeth take a long time to appear, so won’t suddenly start shifting teeth. Any change is gradual, so regular orthodontist appointments may be required to monitor their progress.
The key to wisdom teeth
The arrival of wisdom teeth can be managed as part of your orthodontic plan, and the key is to wear a retainer as advised.
In some instances, if wisdom teeth are impacted, your orthodontist or dentist may recommend their removal to ensure they won’t cause future pain, dental problems or affect existing teeth.
Norwest Orthodontics specialises in helping patients achieve a great smile, no matter their age. We feature a range of orthodontic treatments that span from early intervention right through to remedial adult work.