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Wisdom teeth – the good, the bad, and the impacted.

Let’s face it: Most of us are familiar with the coming and going of teeth, maybe even making a couple of dollars from the Tooth Fairy along the way.  The difference is that with these “wisdom” teeth they don’t fall out on their own.  Well they are certainly not supposed to at any rate….

WHAT: Wisdom teeth or third molars are one of the three molars per quadrant that make up the teeth in our mouth. If you have 3 molars (larger, flatter teeth) at the back of each side of your mouth, left and/ or right, top and/or bottom, congratulations, you have a wisdom tooth! Well sort of congratulations… (Wisdom tooth circled in red).

Wisdom teeth/third molars are often a source of problems and generally are the most commonly impacted of all the teeth in the mouth. When a tooth is impacted it means the teeth do not fully come through the gum into the mouth. Obstructions such as other teeth, tissue and bone can prohibit the teeth from exposing themselves. If the wisdom teeth do not surface completely in the mouth, and they remain even partially under the gum, then pain, inflammation and even damage to surrounding teeth is quite possible. Boooooooo!

  • WHEN can we expect this (delightful) happening: Wisdom teeth generally emerge from the gum in a person’s early twenties. Generally, adults have 4 wisdom teeth (a third molar in each of the four quadrants), but it is possible to have fewer or more.

  • WHY then do we have them?  Back when our human ancestors wandered this glorious earth, human skulls had larger jaws with more teeth.

  • It is generally thought this may be due to the fact they had to chew certain foods more as their digestive systems weren’t as refined as our gluten-free-lactose-sensitive-selves As our diets changed, so did our mouths, getting smaller and therefore less room for all those teeth! The “wisdom teeth” however, still commonly develop in our now smaller, human mouths. So, just as Bart and the rest of the Simpson family have evolved to have only 4 fingers (cartoons, they are sooooo advanced) scientists reckon that we will eventually stop growing these often-bothersome, not-so-useful, molars.

  • HOW: to know if your wisdom teeth are growing in healthy, or if the pain in your mouth is a wisdom tooth trying to erupt:

Just like any type of toothache you should book in to see your dentist. It is often hard to identify if the pain is coming from an un-erupted wisdom tooth, or another, neighbouring tooth. However, to relieve the discomfort, warm saltwater rinses and taking an appropriate painkiller/anti-inflammatory is a good temporary fix.  (Check with your doctor for what medicine is right for you).

So, alas, these congratulatory “welcome to adulthood” phenomena aka wisdom teeth do not necessarily make you smarter. The good news however, is that reading this article likely does


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