Can Wisdom Teeth Grow Back?

The Reality of Tooth Growth

May 14, 2024 Written By: Joyce Kahng, DDS

Have you ever heard the rumor that wisdom teeth can grow back? Maybe a friend shared a scary story, or you saw something online that made you wonder if those molars you had removed could somehow return. If you’re feeling a twinge of pain or noticing something unusual in the back of your mouth, you might be worried. While the idea of wisdom teeth growing back might be a popular myth, the truth is a bit more straightforward.

Below is more about what happens to wisdom teeth after they’re removed, why this myth is so common, and what you should do if you’re concerned about something happening in your mouth.

The Reality of Tooth Growth

To understand why wisdom teeth don’t grow back, it helps to know a bit about how teeth develop. Each tooth has a crown (the part you see), a root (anchored in your jawbone), layers of enamel (the hard outer part), dentin (a softer layer beneath the enamel), and pulp (the innermost part containing nerves and blood vessels).

Teeth start forming long before they erupt through your gums. For most people, wisdom teeth (sometimes referred to as third molars) generally emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. However, sometimes they don’t have enough space to come in properly, leading to problems like pain, infection, or damage to nearby teeth. That’s why they’re often removed.

The key point is that once a tooth’s root is fully formed and the tooth has erupted, it cannot regenerate. This is true for all teeth, including wisdom teeth. Unlike some reptiles and fish that can regrow teeth throughout their lives, humans only get two sets: baby teeth and permanent teeth. Once a permanent tooth is lost, it’s gone for good, unless replaced by a dental implant or other restoration.

Why the Myth Persists

If wisdom teeth don’t grow back, why do so many people believe they do? There are a few reasons this myth has persisted:

  • Confusion with baby teeth: Most of us lose our baby teeth as children, only to have them replaced by permanent teeth. This natural process can lead some to believe that all teeth have regenerative powers.
  • Partial extractions: In rare cases, a wisdom tooth might not be fully removed. If a fragment of the root remains, it can sometimes feel like a new tooth is emerging.
  • Impacted wisdom teeth: Wisdom teeth that are trapped beneath the gumline (impacted) can sometimes shift position. This movement might be mistaken for a new tooth growing in.
  • Supernumerary teeth: While incredibly rare, some people develop extra teeth beyond the usual 32. These are called supernumerary teeth and can appear anywhere in the mouth, even after wisdom teeth removal.

It’s also important to note that while researchers are exploring the potential of stem cell therapies to regenerate teeth, this is still in the very early stages of development and not a viable option for replacing lost teeth currently.

What Happens After Wisdom Tooth Removal

After a wisdom tooth is extracted, your body goes through a natural healing process. A blood clot forms in the empty socket, protecting the underlying bone and nerves. Over the next few days, gum tissue grows over the socket, and new bone gradually fills in the space.

While healing, it’s normal to experience some swelling, discomfort, and even minor bleeding. These symptoms are typically managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, and a soft food diet. Most people recover fully within a week or two.

In some cases, you might experience temporary numbness or tingling in your lips, chin, or tongue. This is usually caused by the anesthetic used during the procedure and should subside over time. However, if you notice any unusual symptoms or persistent pain, it’s important to contact your dentist or oral surgeon right away. They can check for complications like dry socket (where the blood clot dislodges) or infection.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Whether you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed or not, regular dental checkups are crucial for maintaining good oral health. Your dentist can monitor for any changes or potential issues in your mouth, including the area where wisdom teeth were extracted. They can also perform X-rays to visualize the underlying bone and ensure everything is healing properly.

Regular cleanings and exams not only help prevent cavities and gum disease but can also detect other problems early on—when they’re easier to treat. This includes oral cancer, which often has no obvious early symptoms. Your dentist is trained to spot any abnormalities and recommend the appropriate course of action.

If you’re experiencing any pain, swelling, or other unusual symptoms in your mouth, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and get a professional opinion. Remember, your dentist is your partner in maintaining a healthy smile.

What to Do if You Think Your Wisdom Teeth Are Growing Back

If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, or a strange sensation in the back of your mouth where your wisdom teeth used to be, don’t jump to conclusions. While the thought of those molars reappearing might be unsettling, there are several other possibilities. It could be a piece of the original tooth that wasn’t fully removed, an infection, or even an unrelated dental issue.

The best course of action is to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. They can examine your mouth, take X-rays if necessary, and determine the cause of your symptoms. A proper diagnosis will lead to the appropriate treatment, whether it’s a simple cleaning, antibiotics for an infection, or addressing any remaining tooth fragments.

It’s a Myth

While the myth of wisdom teeth growing back might be a persistent one, the reality is that once they’re fully removed, they won’t return. Understanding the science behind tooth development and the healing process after extraction can help dispel any fears or misconceptions.

If you have any concerns about your teeth or oral health, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist. They’re your best source of information and can provide the care you need to maintain a healthy, confident smile. Remember, regular dental checkups are key to catching any potential problems early on and ensuring your smile stays vibrant for years to come.

Smile Smarter,
Dr. Joyce

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