Wisdom tooth are your third molars – teeth that arrive later than all the others. Interestingly, the term likely comes from the Latin – dens sapientiae
Most people start to become aware of their wisdom teeth in their adolescent years. Whilst you can have four wisdom teeth – two on the top and two on the bottom – some people may not have all four or any at all!
The way people tend to find out they have wisdom teeth is unfortunately because of pain. This can be because there is a lack of space in your mouth to accommodate the new tooth. It can get caught under your gums and have trouble erupting (coming through to the surface) or can start to erupt at the wrong angle – sometimes protruding through the gum at the wrong position or pushing into your other teeth. Take a look at this x ray of someone’s tooth that is definitely not in a good position!
In cases like these, the need for removal is quite obvious – the wisdom tooth will continue to push into adjacent teeth and cause pain and possibly misalignment of your other teeth if it is left alone. In other cases, the wisdom tooth might be attempting to break through the gum and this can result in gum tenderness or pressure on your jaw and other teeth which can also cause headaches. In very bad cases, these partially impacted teeth can allow bacteria to bread under the gum’s surface which results in even more pain and even a cyst or a cavity. That is why it is really important both you and your dentist monitor your wisdom teeth in case they are arriving and there cause for concern or need for removal.
Also, if you’ve undergone orthodontic work, your orthodontist will generally have arranged for an OPG to be taken (a full mouth x ray like the one above) which shows all your teeth and importantly the positioning of your wisdom teeth. It is important that your wisdom teeth are monitored as they can start to upset your orthodontic treatment and get in the way of your new smile!