Get Smart About Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, or “third molars,” are the final set of adult teeth to push through the gums in the back of both sides of the jaws. They usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 21 to complete your full set of 32 teeth.

Problems arise, however, when there isn’t enough room for the wisdom teeth to come in. They often grow in crooked or partially, which can cause food debris and bacteria to get caught between the wisdom tooth and the adjoining tooth, resulting in gum problems and tooth decay. Sometimes wisdom teeth remain completely covered by the gums, a phenomenon known as a “bony impacted molar.” Impacted molars create the risk of infection of the surrounding gum tissue and bone.

Dentists can catch these problems before the third molars even start to move into place. By keeping regular dental appointments, your dentist will be able to take X-rays to tell if the teeth will have enough room to grow in properly.

Check your dental policy to see if and how wisdom tooth removal is covered. Removal is usually a fairly simple process, although swelling and some soreness will continue for a couple days. Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed, but if they are prone to infection or cause pain, discuss the best course of treatment with your dentist.

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