Teeth That Won't Make You Smarter

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Sooner or later, almost everyone will experience the eruption of their third molars, often called wisdom teeth. For many people, wisdom teeth grow in naturally completing the 32 teeth present in the mouth. A little sore-ness around the gum tissue is normal during eruption; this is what teething babies complain about! However, for some people, wisdom teeth can cause problems which make it necessary for them to be removed.

Frequently wisdom teeth are said to be impacted, meaning they are unable to fully erupt into proper position. Often part of the tooth will be visible through the gum and the partially erupted tooth may trap bacteria and small food particles like poppy seeds and popcorn kernels. This causes inflammation of the gum tissue and pain. This is a condition called pericoronitis.

If the wisdom tooth is leaning against the roots of the good tooth in front of it (the 2nd molar), it can cause the roots to shrink away (resorb). Root resorption is a serious problem for the good molar. Another problem with wisdom teeth is cysts can develop around them which is damaging to the jaw bone.

Wisdom teeth are often responsible for overcrowding, and shifting of your other teeth. This may affect the way you bite. These are problems that lead many dentists to recommend that wisdom teeth be extracted. It is important to have your third molars checked periodically as their condition and position does change. Sometimes these teeth do more harm than good.

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