Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are also known as third molars or 8s. They first start to appear on a dental x-ray at about 5-7 years of age, with calcification beginning around 12 years of age. Wisdom teeth erupt, on average, at 20.5 years of age. Most people have four wisdom teeth, two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw. Others may not develop their wisdom teeth at all and can be missing one or more of them.

opg-xrayIt was once thought that pressure from erupting wisdom teeth was the main cause of crowding of the lower front teeth. However, studies now show that wisdom teeth play a very small role in this process. Crowding of the lower front teeth is due to a number of factors, with wisdom teeth being just one of them. Therefore, the routine removal of wisdom teeth simply to prevent crowding is not recommended.

Instead, the removal of wisdom teeth should be based on whether they are likely to cause you other problems.


General rules for the management of wisdom teeth:

If a wisdom tooth fully erupts into a good position and can be kept clean, then it should be retained.

If a wisdom tooth does not erupt, it may be left where it is, under the bone.

If a wisdom tooth partly erupts because of a lack of space, it should be monitored closely.

If a wisdom tooth is decayed or has repeated gum infections around it, then is should be removed.

If a wisdom tooth grows horizontally, it may damage the adjacent teeth so removal is wise.

If it looks like there’s no room for the wisdom tooth, removal may prevent future impaction.


When the decision is made to remove wisdom teeth, it is best done when you are young. In young patients, the roots are often not fully formed and the bone is softer, making removal easier and less traumatic.  If wisdom teeth are left in place until the patient is older, then removal may be more difficult as the roots may become hooked and the bone is generally denser.

Wisdom teeth may be removed under local anaesthetic (the needle) in the dentist’s chair, under intravenous sedation in the dentist’s chair, or under general anaesthetic in the hospital. Removal may be performed by your dentist or an oral surgeon.

Our orthodontist will take an OPG x-ray to check your wisdom teeth and provide advice on what to do.