Wisdom teeth are actually the 3rd permanent molars and develop way back in the jaw bone  beginning at age 9. These teeth are the last to form and the furtherest back.

If you're genetically lucky, the jaws are large enough to accomodate the wisdom teeth in a proper erupted position. In this position, if they can be kept clean, they may be retained.
In most cases, the jaw is not large enough for the wisdom teeth and they form within the curvature of the jaw. This is referred to as an Impacted Wisdom Tooth.

There are several possible problems that may be associated with wisdom teeth.

If a wisdom tooth becomes partially exposed thru the gums, bacteria will fill the space around the crown of the tooth. Since this is an area that you can not cleanse, an infection will begin.
Sometimes, the infection will become so intense, that the bone itself becomes infected.
It is possible that the wisdom tooth may cause destruction of the molar just in front of it.


For these reasons I usually advise patients to have their wisdom teeth removed. Teeth all form the crown first and then the roots form and grow in length. This is why it is usually recommended that the wisdom teeth be removed at a young age before the roots fully develop.

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