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What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Do you know how many teeth you have? As adults, you have 32 teeth. Yet, many of us only have 28 teeth to count. This is because most adults have their third molars removed when they are in their late teens or early twenties. We also call these third molars “wisdom teeth.” These teeth get their name because they develop later in age—closer to adulthood. Therefore, we are “wiser.”

Wisdom teeth do not indicate more wisdom—just age. Rather than erupting between ages 12 to 14, wisdom teeth push through as many of us reach adulthood. Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, and not everyone has four wisdom teeth. Additionally, it is common to remove the back molars. However, some people have enough room in their jaws to keep all their teeth. 

Close-up of woman's mouth being viewed with dental mirror wisdom teeth dentist in Tulsa Oklahoma

Different Types of Teeth

You have four different types of teeth in your mouth. Each of them has its own function to help you speak and eat. 

At the front of your mouth, you have four incisors on the top and bottom of your jaw. These teeth are sharp with a thin edge to help bite and cut into food.

Next to the incisors lie the canines. You have four incisors—two on the top and on the bottom. We get the name “canine” because they look like dog fangs. In fact, the shape helps tear food. You will notice these teeth because they are sharp and pointed. 

There are two premolars next to each canine tooth. They are both sharp and have ridges—like molars. In fact, they help to tear and grind food. 

Finally, you have three sets of molars in the back of your mouth. They are the largest teeth with a flat top and ridges. Like the premolars, molars help to chew and grind food for swallowing.

The Function of Wisdom Teeth

While you most likely need your wisdom teeth removed now, they used to have a function. The diets of our ancestors were a lot different from ours. Compared to us, they ate more raw plants and tough meat. As a result, another set of molars was required to grind food for digestion. Also, our ancestors’ jaws were larger than ours, so all of their teeth could fit without problems. 

Because we use utensils to cut our food, we no longer need bigger jaws or extra teeth. 

Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Because our jaws aren’t big enough, most people need a dental professional to extract their wisdom teeth. This is a standard procedure that many people endure. While some people can keep their teeth with no issues, others can develop an abscess or infection

In fact, wisdom teeth can become impacted and cause severe problems. This is because wisdom teeth can grow at odd angles, including diagonal or right angles. Unfortunately, this keeps them from erupting properly, causing infection and pain. 

Wisdom tooth extraction is a routine process. If you fear an extraction, you don’t need to worry. It usually only takes a week to recover from the surgery. Additionally, you shouldn’t experience extreme pain as long as you follow your surgeon’s care instructions.