A wisdom tooth is the tooth right at the back of the mouth. The most common age to get wisdom teeth is between age 17 and age 19. It is however not unusual to have wisdom teeth erupt anytime from from age 17-25.
The average adult has four wisdom teeth, on in each corner of the mouth. Some people however can have fewer, and some people are born with none! (Source 2010: American Association of Oral Surgeons)
20-25% of people worldwide are estimated to have FEWER than four wisdom teeth. So there is a one in four chance you will have less than the usual four wisdom teeth. (Carter and Worthington 2015)
There is not always enough space for wisdom teeth. Often people experience pain, discomfort or infection from wisdom teeth.
What is the maximum number of wisdom teeth?
The normal person will have four (or fewer) wisdom teeth. Some people however do have extra wisdom teeth. These people have an additional tooth or set of teeth. These extra wisdom teeth are referred to as “supernumerary” teeth.
In my work seeing thousands of patients I personally I have seen quite a few patients that have DOUBLE wisdom teeth. That’s a total of eight wisdom teeth! There are some extreme cases where people have even more. These cases are rare though, and you would be quite unique to fall into this category. In fact its around one or two people per hundred that have these extra wisdom teeth.
The most number of wisdom teeth I have seen was twelve in one person. This was pretty extraordinary and I am not sure I will ever encounter this again in my practice as a dentist.
Who is most likely to get wisdom teeth?
Certain populations are more or less likely to get four wisdom teeth. Females are slightly more likely to be MISSING one or more wisdom teeth (around 15%!) (Source: Carter and Worthington 2015)
Different locations and backgrounds around the world are more or less likely to get wisdom teeth. For example, people of African and European descent are more likely to have all four wisdom teeth – while as a general rule people of Asian descent are more likely to be missing one or more wisdom teeth. (Source: John Hawks)
Do we get wisdom teeth at twelve?
I often get asked by patients or parents if wisdom teeth come in at 12 years old. It is true that a new set of teeth grows in down the back at age 10-13. We call these teeth the “second molar” or sometimes “the 12-year-old molars”.
No baby teeth are lost when these new molars erupt at the back of the mouth around age twelve. However these are NOT wisdom teeth! These are normal molars.
Usually a child will get one 12 year old molar in each corner of the mouth (four in total). The new lower teeth generally erupt before the upper teeth.
Do I need my four wisdom teeth out?
Remember not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted– nature does not often give us pointless body features! There are however many factors of modern life that are leading to impaction, infection, and pain. These mean many people require wisdom tooth removal. Your best bet if you are wondering is to make a dental appointment and ask your dentist.
How many wisdom teeth can be taken out at once?
It is very common for wisdom teeth to require extraction. When this happens it is common to extract all four in one go – especially if the patient is put to sleep for the tooth removal. It makes sense to get everything sorted in one go. It helps limit surgical risk and means only one bout of healing is required.
Another common approach for people who need their wisdom teeth out is to take out two at a time. If you aware awake and in the chair when you have the wisdom teeth removed this is a popular option. Lots of people get the upper and lower tooth on the same time side removed simultaneously.
If a single tooth is causing trouble or pain – some people elect to have that one problematic tooth extracted and then plan the remainder at a later date – if they do indeed need to be taken out.
Wisdom Teeth Infographic
What Can I Do About my Wisdom Teeth Smell?
There are plenty of things you can do about smelly or stinking wisdom teeth. Here are bunch of suggestions of what people do to manage bad breath or a stinky tooth. Specifically, for a wisdom tooth though, a common remedy used by dentists, nurses and doctors is a mouth rinse that targets the bacteria that cause a smelly wisdom tooth. One of the most common is a “chlorhexidine”containing mouth rinse.
The article above also details salt water rinses, cleaning the area, and in extreme cases antibiotics to stop a wisdom tooth that stinks.
As well as being an Australian trained and practicing dentist, Dr Kit relies on sources please check out for further interesting reading on wisdom teeth.
American Association of Oral Surgeons (Web Archive) (Web Archive)
Carter and Worthington 2015 (PubMed)
John Hawks Web Blog (John Hawks States Web Blog)