Wisdom teeth

Synonyms: Third molars

Medical Specialties: Dentistry, Surgery

Clinical Definition

Wisdom teeth (third molars) are the final set of teeth to develop in human beings, and they tend to become impacted and require removal.

In Our Own Words

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the final set of human teeth to develop. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25, which has been called “the age of wisdom.”


Nine out of 10 people will experience at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which means the tooth can’t come up through the gums as it should, often because there is not enough room. Impacted wisdom teeth tend to become infected or lead to damage in other teeth.


Even wisdom teeth that come in normally sometimes develop cavities that can’t be restored or lead to other problems such as gum disease, partly because they are located way back in the mouth and difficult to clean.

Relevant Conditions
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
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  • Cleveland Clinic. “Oral surgery.” http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/oral_surgery/hic_oral_surgery.aspx. Accessed July 2013.
  • American Dental Association. “Wisdom Teeth.” http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth.aspx. Accessed July 2013.
  • American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. “Wisdom Teeth.” http://www.aaoms.org/conditions-and-treatments/wisdom-teeth/. Accessed July 2013.
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