Wisdom Teeth, the troubling breed

Wisdom teeth, the troubling breed
February 22, 2022

The “Wisdom Tooth” or third molars are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth, at about the time when a teenager goes off into the world to become wise, the colloquial wisdom teeth. In many Spanish-speaking countries, it is called as the molar of judgment, considering the person to have better judgement ability than that of a child. In Turkish culture, they refer to the third molar directly as per the age at which they appear; 20 yas disi, translated as 20th year tooth.

Wisdom based on age doesn’t hold true anymore, especially looking at the wisdom shown by young kids and teenagers. Just like us humans, these wisdom teeth have a mind and personality of their own; they come in all shapes and sizes, always predictably unpredictable. 

With evolution, lifestyle modification, dietary habits and food forms that have gotten softer and well-cooked compared to raw, coarse foods consumed by our fore fathers; the need for additional teeth to serve our purpose of grinding and chewing has been negated. This habit based cultural evolution change has led to the third molar being relegated as a vestigial / missing tooth. As many as half of third molars have been found to be missing in our mouths. 

These teeth are positioned the furthest back in our mouths and are the last to erupt. By the time these teeth erupt, our skeletal and bone growth is often complete which leaves little or no space to accommodate these large teeth. They do tend to press on all other front teeth, but rarely make it out up to an adequate biting position. As a consequence, third molars fail to erupt, partly erupt or erupt diagonally into the cheek, away from their desired position. This then renders them to have food impacted, inadequate space for brushing or cleaning, ultimately leading to cavities, gum infections and the dreaded pain.

Treatments for third molars teeth range from fillings to root canals if the teeth are completely erupted and with adequate mouth opening. Treatment of the gums for draining abscesses or or exposing more tooth or other symptomatic treatment. The most commonly advised, long term solution, especially for inadequately erupted third molars is tooth extraction. The earlier that extraction is done, the better it is. Holding on to a troubling third molar easily causes infections to spread to other teeth, that are a lot more useful in the long term. 

What’s the status on your wisdom teeth??

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