Wisdom teeth: Growth, Problems and Removal

Wisdom teeth: Growth, Problems and Removal - blog

Wisdom teeth grow in the back of the mouth and are the third and last molars to erupt.  Evolutionary biology shows us that while wisdom teeth were necessary for our ancient ancestors, today we have little need for them. Modern medicine ensures that we don’t lose our teeth early in life, so we don’t need a backup in our teens and twenties.  Our changed diet also makes wisdom teeth redundant. 

Our jaw can happily accommodate 28 teeth but adding another 4 large teeth to our mouth frequently causes problems.  Often an erupted wisdom tooth or a partially erupted wisdom tooth can cause space issues in the jaw, leading to problems such as bone and nerve damage, and overcrowding with teeth being pushed aside or skewed.

When do Wisdom Teeth Start Growing?

At what age do wisdom teeth grow in?  Wisdom teeth usually start to erupt between the age of 17 and 25.  They are called ‘wisdom’ teeth after the fact that they emerge when a child moves on to adulthood and therefore has reached the age of ‘wisdom’.

How Long Does it Take for all Wisdom Teeth to Grow?

How long do wisdom teeth take to grow? Wisdom teeth start forming in the jawbone at around the age of 9 years old.  X-rays taken of a 12 year old’s jaw will show wisdom teeth sitting below the gum line. By late teens, the wisdom teeth roots have developed and are beginning to lengthen.  This is the time when the crown of the tooth may start to erupt.

By our early to mid-twenties, wisdom teeth have usually erupted or been unable to do so due to being impacted.  By the time we reach 40, the roots of our wisdom teeth are properly anchored in our jawbones, which have now reached their full density.

Symptoms of Wisdom Teeth Growing

  • Tender and inflamed gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pain at the back of the mouth can be attributed to wisdom tooth eruption pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in the jaw
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth

Wisdom Tooth Removal

Wisdom teeth frequently erupt without any issues. When removal is indicated by your dentist is can be due to one of a variety of reasons which usually stem from the fact that there just isn’t enough room in the jaw for them to erupt in the correct manner. Problems which may require wisdom tooth removal include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Crooked teeth
  • Teeth growing at unusual angles
  • Gingivitis
  • Cysts
  • Abscesses
  • Pericoronitis
  • Pain  

Erupted Tooth Extraction

A fully erupted wisdom tooth is the simplest one to extract.  It’s extracted in exactly the same way as any other tooth. Erupted tooth extraction will be recommended if the wisdom teeth are incorrectly angled when they erupt, thus causing pressure on the molars next to them.  This pressure can cause damage to adjacent teeth, the jawbone and possibly the nerves.

Partially Erupted Tooth Extraction

A partial eruption of a wisdom tooth creates an opening where bacteria can enter possibly causing infection leading to pain, swelling and illness.  Partially erupted wisdom teeth are more likely to suffer from decay as they are difficult to clean and floss. 

Partially erupted tooth extraction is a simple procedure which involves anesthetizing the area and then cutting through the gum to access the whole tooth.  Occasionally a small amount of bone may be removed with the tooth and the tooth may be cut into smaller pieces to make extraction easier.

Impacted Tooth Extraction

An X-ray will show whether your wisdom teeth are impacted or not.  Generally, unless you are experiencing pain or other dental problems, your dentist will not remove impacted wisdom teeth.  However, if you are having pain issues, then removal is an option. 

The procedure will usually be performed in a dental surgery under local, sedation or general anaesthetic and you will go home the same day.  The surgeon will make a cut into the gums and remove any bone that is covering the impacted wisdom tooth, before removing the tooth itself. The tooth will usually be cut into smaller pieces to make removal easier and to reduce surrounding tissue damage.

Can Wisdom Teeth Grow Back After an Extraction?

Do teeth grow back once a wisdom tooth has been removed?  The short answer to this is ‘no’.  However, in exceptionally rare cases, there can be more than 4 wisdom teeth in the mouth, and these may erupt once the first set have been removed.