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wisdom teethWhenever you hear the term “wisdom teeth,” you probably immediately have a vision of painful extraction. Everyone dreads hearing the dentist say that its time to pull your wisdom teeth.

Probably the most maligned of all the teeth, most people don’t know much about their wisdom teeth. Really, all they are is the third set of molars, the large teeth in the back of your mouth whose primary function is to grind up food. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow in, generally appearing between the ages of 17 to 25.

Why are they called wisdom teeth?

It’s interesting that many languages other than English use a term similar to “wisdom teeth” when describing the third molars. German calls them Weisheitzähne (wisdom teeth), the French say dents de sagesse (wisdom teeth). In Spanish they are muelas del juicio (teeth of judgement), and in Arabic ders-al-a’qel (teeth of the mind).

While the teenage years and early twenties aren’t often associated as the most wise time of our lives, the appearance of your wisdom teeth indicate achieving adulthood. Other languages are very specific when it comes to the timing of the third molar. In Turkish they are known as yirmi yaş dişi, which literally translates to “20th-year teeth.”

Regardless of how they are considered culturally, they are an indicator of growing older, and they are the last teeth that you’ll grow in.

What’s their purpose?

Wisdom teeth are an unfortunate victim of evolution. Many people wonder why we even have them when most of the time they have to get removed. Our ancestors had a very different view on their utility. They needed more molars to grind up the tough raw meat and fibrous plants that constituted the majority of their diet. As our diet and civilization developed, we’ve created easy ways of heating and cooking our meats and other foods. By creating more tender, cooked foods, we no longer have need for more tooth surface to grind up tough foods.

Our jawbones developed over time to accommodate the new diet, but our wisdom teeth failed to keep up with progress. The result is that many people have too many teeth trying to squeeze into a smaller jaw.

Generally people grow in four wisdom teeth, two at the ends on the top, and two at the ends on the bottom. For some people, wisdom teeth grow in perfectly normal, but for others, correction will be required.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

The first appearance of your wisdom teeth will likely be on x-rays during your adolescent or young adult years. That’s how a dentist can track their growth and see how they are growing in. How they grow in is the key to whether or not they’ll need to be removed.

If the teeth grow in sideways because of our smaller modern jaws, they are called impacted. This simply means that they are trapped in the jaw, unable to erupt from the gum successfully. Sometimes they erupt partially, which is termed partially impacted. By growing sideways, they put pressure on your other teeth, often causing pain and swelling. Other problems, like cysts that develop around a fully impacted wisdom tooth may occur.

Even if a wisdom tooth grows in perfectly, it’s at a location in your mouth that is very difficult to keep clean. If you have your wisdom teeth, it’s important that you make sure you clean them frequently and often as part of your regular oral hygiene regimen.

wisdom teethWhat is the process to have them removed?

For most people, the procedure usually takes less than an hour. You’ll likely receive either a local anesthesia or a shot of novocaine in your gum as well as nitrous oxide, IV sedation, or other general anesthesia so that you’ll be unconscious through the surgery. Your dental surgeon will require that someone be on hand to drive you home after the procedure.

Since most wisdom teeth that are removed are impacted, the gums will be cut as part of the procedure which will require stitches, so you’ll leave the office with gauze pads in place over any incisions.

You can expect there to be some bleeding on the first day after extraction, so you’ll need to keep an eye on and replace the gauze pads periodically. You will likely experience discomfort, which can be managed with over the counter medications or prescription medication that your dentist prescribes. A good tip is also to put ice packs on your jaw to help reduce swelling.

After the first day you’ll notice rapid improvement. Soft foods will be recommended for the week following surgery.

It’s important to remember that wisdom teeth amount to a rite of passage. Most of us get them, and most of us who do get them will need to have them removed. Regular visits to your dentist will help track their growth and progress, and together with your dentist you can determine the best plan of action — whether to leave them in place or have them removed. Either way, the appearance of wisdom teeth means you have officially and successfully completed the growth of your teeth.

If you have any questions, or would like to set up an appointment, give Lockhart Dentistry a call today at (317) 849-9715.


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  • 8202 Clearvista Parkway, Suite 4C, Indianapolis, IN 46256


  • Gerald B.
    “Approximately 4:45 p.m., a crown came completely out. I immediately called Dr. Lockhart’s office to see if he was available. He was so 15 minutes later; I walked into his office. I was seen immediately; the tooth was prepped and recemented. Less than a half-hour after the tooth came out, it was back in, and I was on my way to the Pacer game. Great job!”
    Gerald B.
  • Steve E.
    “I’ve had several teeth extracted, and can say unequivocally this was the easiest one to date. The tooth was out before I knew it, no muss, no fuss.”
    Steve E.
  • Jessica C.
    “I am never disappointed with Dr. Lockhart’s service. I have been seeing him for my dental care for a few years now and it seems that my dental health has only improved since I began seeing him. I value how straight forward and honest he is with his patients. I would recommend him to everyone!”
    Jessica C.
  • Linda A.
    “Everyone is professional and so friendly. They take the time to explain the procedures, and make you feel very comfortable in a very relaxed atmosphere. If you don’t like going to a dentist for whatever reason, I suggest you try Dr. Lockhart!”
    Linda A.
  • Karen P.
    “At the doctor’s recommendation, an old silver filling was replaced with enamel. This accomplished two things. It provided an opportunity to assess the health of the tooth-as it is a deep and old filling. And secondly it improved the visual of the mouth by having a filling material which blends with the tooth color. Though no further care is needed at this time, it is valuable to know what may be necessary going forward which eliminates the dreaded element of surprise in dental care. Dr. Lockhart and his staff create a comfortable, caring environment which puts the patient at ease while undergoing what might otherwise be an anxiety filled procedure. All aspects of the office visit were professional, efficient and most important of all – painless.”
    Karen P.
  • Joseph O.
    “Great environment, courteous friendly and professional staff. I look forward to my dental visits because Danelle is welcoming and focused on my dental health and Dr Lockhart is always attentive and clear in his care and explanations.”
    Joseph O.
  • Heather B.
    “Above and beyond! Our son broke off a tooth on A Tuesday evening. Dr. Lockhart and his staff are not scheduled to be in the office on Wednesdays. We nevertheless called the emergency number he provided first thing Wednesday morning. Dr. Lockhart promptly returned our call and we made arrangements to meet at the office. Dr. Lockhart was very thorough with his examination. He and McKenzie took great care of our son and got him fixed up. Always the highest level of care and customer service. THANK YOU!”
    Heather B.
  • Anne M.
    “I highly recommend Lockhart Dentistry to all my friends. After 30 years I finally made the decision to get crowns and braces. In less then 6 months, my treatment is over and I can smile with confidence. Thank you Dr. Lockhart, and your wonderful staff. I truly wonder why I waited so long!”
    Anne M.
  • Kyle C.
    “Always a great and efficient visit. Extremely caring and have seen amazing progress for not being in a long time!”
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    “Great dentistry ! Top notch all around.“
    Lawrence M.
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    “Experience and Tech Savvy. Dr Lockhart has more experience and is more technologically savvy than any dentist I’ve been to in my 54 years.”
    Gregg J.
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    “Happy to have found a dentist in my neighborhood for my entire family!”
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  • Don G.
    “Nice place to visit but don’t want to live there. I generally do not like surveys or questionnaires and am only answering this one because I like you.”
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  • Linda M.
    “When I think of Lockhart Dentistry, the terms “kindness, promptness, professionalism, and effectiveness” come to mind.”
    Linda M.
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    “Lockhart Dentistry is a step above all others. Great enthusiastic staff that genuinely enjoy their jobs. Ingrid goes out of her way to make sure each visit is enjoyable and she is very thorough in explaining what she is doing throughout my examination. Every appointment I have had has been on schedule, very little time spent waiting in lobby, which is very important to me from a work and family perspective. I like the fact that they have email and text reminders too!!!”
    Thomas H.
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    “Best Long Term Dental Care. My wife and I have been patients of Dr. Lockhart for over 20 years. From routine bi-annual cleanings and checkups to implants, crowns and partial bridges that I’ve had through the years; Dr. Lockhart and his team have always provided the very best of care.”
    Clarence H.
  • Dee B.
    "Highly recommend! I’ve been. With Dr Lockhart 25+ years….since he was at 71st and Shadeland. I had some serious issues that Dr Lockhart and his staff have helped me overcome. I can’t say enough great things about them (I even got my husband to join me there). Thank you so much to Lockhart Dentistry."
    Dee B.
  • Joan M.
    Routine 6 month cleaning and check. Have been a patient of Lockhart Dentistry since Doc came to Indianapolis. The entire staff is friendly and caring and works hard to make sure you are comfortable no matter what service is being provided.
    Joan M.
  • Nicole B.
    "Great place, people are friendly and very nice. Dr. Lockhart always has an alternative or solution to my issues. I love Danielle! I always ask for her to do my cleaning. My teeth always feel extra clean."
    Nicole B.
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    Wonderful experience! Very thorough and friendly!
    Laurie P.
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    "Dr. Bruce and his staff are amazing, kind, very caring. They take care of you like one of their own!"
    Deborah W.