I am one of the final four of thirty-two; a third molar found at the back, causing pain and mischief to some who have me. I am one of four wisdom teeth, and this is our story.
We often get a bit of bad press from the older adults, who invariably suffered painful old fashioned tooth removal, mixed up with some old wives tales. But you’ll be glad to know, things have moved on since then! Being late additions to the mouth often has its drawbacks, because frequently there is not enough room for us to grow correctly. Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, but for those that do it is common for them to appear between around the ages of 16 to 22.
Being molar teeth, our primary function is to mince up food before it is swallowed. It is thought that extra teeth were needed by our distant ancestors due to the grinding away of their other molar teeth through their diet and lack of dental care. Luckily for you and me, we now have better dental care (yes, you should brush your teeth twice a day) and softer food i.e. you now cook our food! As a result of evolution humans now have smaller jaws and cope perfectly well with 28 teeth; in fact, the final 4 often cause more problems than they are worth.
It is very common for us to get stuck whilst we try to grow at the back of the mouth. As there is not enough room we often get caught on the tooth in front of us, this causes us to become impacted. Impacted is the term often used by dentists, which basically means that we are stuck and can’t grow up into a normal position. Mesioangular impaction is the most common form (44%), and means the tooth is angled forward, towards the front of the mouth.
If we become impacted, the gum around us can become sore and swollen. As it is sore it is normal not to want to brush this area, but this can lead to infection of the gum and decay of the tooth. This is why it is really important to make an appointment to go and see your dentist. It is very common to have your wisdom teeth removed; this can be done in the dental surgery or hospital. But not everyone has a problem with their wisdom teeth; in some girls and boys we grow perfectly normally and function just as well as the other teeth in your mouth. So chin up William, not everything about wisdom teeth is bad news!