What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last Molar teeth to erupt in the back of your mouth. They are also referred to as the third molars. When there is enough room in the mouth they can erupt into a functional position and not cause any problems if you’re able to keep them clean. You can eat with them like you do with your other molars and thus are referred to as functional. However, when there is not enough room in the mouth Wisdom teeth can erupt in a non-functional position, partially erupt or stay completely impacted. Depending on the position of the wisdom tooth it may be impinging on the tooth in front of it and causing damage in the second molar. Teeth that are in a non-functional position (not used to eat) are generally advised to be removed as they are at highest risk for infection.

Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, get their name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood. Watch as Dr. Maria Lopez explains the importance of having a dentist monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth.

Sally J. Cram, DDS
Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, get their name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood; the time of life when a person gains maturity and thus wisdom. The majority of people have most of their permanent teeth by age 13, followed by the wisdom teeth, which usually erupt or become impacted between the ages 17-21.

Not everyone's teeth develop on the same schedule. See your dentist regularly so he or she can monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth are the nickname for the third molars. Adults have 32 teeth, and the wisdom teeth usually come in last, by about age 17.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
The furthermost back teeth are the wisdom teeth (also called the third molars). They're shaped like a crown with four cusps and were specifically designed that way to mash food. Thanks to evolution, we don't need them anymore. Yet, we still get them, and they often grow in with annoying complications. They're either impacted, or they grow in sideways or only partially. It's practically a rite of passage to get them removed, and that usually happens somewhere between the late teens and the early twenties. But people get them removed at all ages. Ultimately, if they don't cause you discomfort, your wisdom teeth can remain. If and when they do bother you, though, they should be taken out.
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Wisdom teeth are your third set of molars. They are the last teeth to come in, generally pushing their way through the gums at the back of your mouth during your late teens or early twenties. While wisdom teeth can be useful, they aren’t necessary, and in many cases, there may not actually be room for them in your jaw. If this is the case, they may become impacted and oral surgery will be necessary to remove them. Your dentist will be able to tell you whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed, but chances are they will. Over eighty percent of wisdom teeth end up getting removed at some point or another.

Continue Learning about Wisdom Teeth

Should wisdom teeth be removed?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
Wisdom teeth that don’t fully erupt or that grow in sideways can lead to tooth decay, infection ...
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What happens after a wisdom tooth is removed?
Randall D. Stastny, DMDRandall D. Stastny, DMD
As with any surgical procedure, you may experience discomfort, bleeding, swelling and/or infection. ...
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What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
An impacted wisdom tooth cannot break through the surface of the gums due to a number of restriction...
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Do wisdom teeth have a different function than other teeth?
Wisdom teeth are no different than other teeth and serve the same function if they grow in properly,...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.