Wisdom teeth. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, most of us have four of them. Or more. Or less. You heard me! Some of us have extra or fewer wisdom teeth than the typical set of four-third molars. But can wisdom teeth grow back after they’re removed? How is that some people wind up having extra wisdom teeth or a new wisdom tooth after they already have theirs removed?
No, wisdom teeth don’t grow back. But you can grow extra wisdom teeth after your wisdom tooth removal!
Wisdom teeth are the third set of permanent molars that you get behind your “12-year” or “second” molars. They normally start to become visible on your X-rays sometime during your pre-teen junior high years or even before that.
We call wisdom teeth “wisdom” teeth because they erupt once you’re a lot older. So—hypothetically speaking—you’re wiser than you were when those other teeth came in during elementary school. Ok, so maybe you’re only 19 or 20-something when they erupt, but there’s still more wisdom there than a 9 or 10 year old!
For the average person, there is one wisdom tooth at the back of every “quadrant” in your mouth. By quadrant, we’re talking about the upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left.
Can wisdom teeth grow back? Not after they’re removed by your dentist or oral surgeon. But it IS possible to have extra or “supernumerary” teeth behind your four wisdom teeth, making it seem as if your wisdom teeth are growing back after you have the first four removed. But relax: if you have these extra teeth, most dentists or oral surgeons take all of them out at the same time. They serve no functional purpose whatsoever.
A typical adult dentition (set of teeth) has 32 teeth in total. That’s 8 incisors, 4 canines/eye teeth, 8 premolars/bicuspids, and 12 molars in total. Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars; the other two sets come in sometime around ages 6 and 12, respectively.
Today, we have amazing access to preventative dental care. For that reason, most of us are keeping our natural teeth longer than ever. As in, from the dawn of civilization. So, we don’t really need wisdom teeth as much as our ancestors did, because for the most part, the other molars that come in before them are still healthy and doing their job properly. Wisdom teeth are like one final round of molars to give you a backup option for eating.
Sort of. Wisdom teeth seem to grow in spurts. You feel them, then you don’t. It almost feels like wisdom teeth grow for a while, take a break, and then grow some more. That’s why so many people experience off-and-on discomfort leading up to when they finally go see an oral surgeon to have them removed.
Wisdom teeth usually keep growing throughout college years and your 20s. As a general rule, most wisdom teeth finally stop growing by the time you’re around 30 years old.
When you’re in junior high and high school, your dentist can see the wisdom teeth growing on a full mouth “panoramic” X-ray. Even if you don’t get your wisdom teeth out, they grow so consistently that your dentist will probably need a new panoramic film every 3-5 years to monitor their growth and placement.
If you’ve made it to 30 years old without your wisdom teeth or they’ve grown in perfectly normal, congratulations. You’re probably in the clear (at least for now.)
It is physically impossible for a tooth to re-grow after the extraction. Every tooth in your mouth starts forming from a tiny tooth bud before you can even see it. Some tooth buds are already there before you’re even born! The types of cells they grow from aren’t like skin or fingernails where they grow back if some of the tissue is still left behind. If it’s out, it’s out!
If you’ve ever heard someone say that their wisdom teeth grew back after having them removed, what they’re actually talking about is supernumerary (extra) teeth behind their third molars that weren’t removed the first time around.
Wisdom teeth grow and develop just like every other tooth in your mouth does. As the small tooth bud and cyst develop in your jaw, cells come together and form the various nerve tissues and layers of your tooth. Then little by little the top of your tooth forms and it works its way down through the root.
The only difference between wisdom teeth and your other teeth is that your third molars erupt way later than your other permanent teeth do. Again, that’s why they’re always called “wisdom” teeth (you’re older and, hopefully, wiser.)
Every tooth needs to have their own special tooth bud to grow. If it’s missing—which happens sometimes in families—you won’t get that tooth at all. And it just so happens that wisdom teeth are one of the most common teeth to have missing.
These extra molars tend to be much, much smaller than a full-sized wisdom tooth. They might only be about 1/6th or 1/8th the size of a small wisdom tooth depending on the person. This part of your mouth is one of the most common areas for an extra tooth to form—and usually we don’t see them until the wisdom teeth develop—so it’s only natural to think of them like having extra wisdom teeth.
When you think about supernumerary teeth as non-functional extra molars, they pretty much fall in line with the same way we think about your other four wisdom teeth.
It’s rare for most Americans to need their wisdom teeth to eat. If you live in a 3rd world country without access to dental care and already have missing teeth, that’s a different story. But for those of us with access to preventative dental resources, wisdom teeth can actually cause more harm than good.
Thankfully, no, your wisdom teeth can’t grow back once your dentist or oral surgeon removes them. But if they take your four wisdom teeth out and leave any supernumerary molars behind, then you’ll have additional teeth later on that might need to be removed! Tooth extraction is not all that scary, the video below explains the entire wisdom teeth removal procedure.
Can teeth grow back after your wisdom teeth removal? No. But can you have extra wisdom teeth come in behind your typical four third molars? Yes. It’s not unheard of to have anywhere from 1-4 or more extra wisdom teeth (technically they’re supernumerary teeth) behind your other ones. If you’re getting your third molars removed by an oral surgeon, it’s probably best to just go ahead and have all of them taken out at one time, including the extra teeth, to save yourself from the headache of wisdom tooth problems later on.
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