Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?

Most people will have a total of 32 permanent teeth once they become adults. The last of these teeth to come in usually are the third molars, also called wisdom teeth, which typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 21.

Typically, people will have one wisdom tooth in each corner of the mouth for a total of four. However, it’s not uncommon for someone to have less than four, or even no wisdom teeth at all. If you do have wisdom teeth, will likely have a discussion with your dentist regarding removing them.

This article will discuss wisdom teeth and why some people don't have them.

Woman at dentist

SolStock / Getty Images

Why Don’t Some People Have Them?

There’s no confirmed reason why some people don’t have wisdom teeth. Up to 37% of people are missing at least one wisdom tooth, according to researchers. Some experts say it’s because the tissue required to spark wisdom formation doesn’t migrate to the rear of the mouth to start the process. Others say it could be a result of evolution because we no longer need wisdom teeth to help chew and break down food. 

Each year, approximately 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted from nearly five million people in the United States.

What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?

According to the American Dental Association, wisdom teeth typically come in between the ages of 17 and 21. They usually are the last of all the permanent teeth to come in. 

Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth get their name because they come in when the person is older and more mature, and, theoretically, have more wisdom.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Although it may not be necessary to remove your wisdom teeth, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons states that about 85% of third molars eventually need to be removed. 

Purpose

There are a number of reasons why removing wisdom teeth is necessary. For instance, they are not in the right position, causing problems with surrounding teeth. Or you may not have enough room in your jawbone to accommodate wisdom teeth, and if you have difficulty cleaning them it could lead to tooth decay or gum disease.

Cost

Costs for removing wisdom teeth vary by dental provider, specific insurance coverage, and the type of removal process you need. The average cost for extractions is about $300 to $550 per tooth.

The Surgery

Your dentist may be able to remove your wisdom teeth as they would a regular tooth—numbing the area around the tooth and pulling it out. Some teeth may require more invasive procedures, such as cutting the gum in order to reach and remove the tooth. 

Recovery

Recovery from wisdom tooth removal depends on the type of removal process, but usually takes just a few days. Expect to feel bruised and sore as the gums and jawbone heal. 

When They Can Stay

If your wisdom teeth don’t present any problems, your dentist will most likely leave them in. However, it’s important for you to see your dentist regularly in order to make sure you don’t develop any problems such as tooth decay or gum disease. 

Risks

If you don’t have your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist should monitor them to make sure no problems develop, such as:

  • Infection: If the wisdom teeth are not properly cleaned, an infection could develop due to gum disease.
  • Pain: Your wisdom teeth may shift over time or as they come in, pushing on your other teeth and causing pain. 
  • Cavities: Difficulty reaching your wisdom teeth for proper brushing and flossing could lead to cavities. 

When to See a Dentist

Continue to see your dentist every six months so they can monitor the emergence of your wisdom teeth. Also, if you start to experience pain around your wisdom teeth, see your dentist for an exam in order to diagnose the possible cause. 

Summary

Not everyone has the full number of wisdom teeth, or even any wisdom teeth at all. For those who do, many have their wisdom teeth removed to avoid future problems with their other teeth. If they are not removed, your dentist should monitor them to avoid problems in the future. 

A Word From Verywell

Having your wisdom teeth removed can help you avoid dental problems in the future. Talking with your dentist is important to see if removal is the right choice for you. Even if you keep them, make sure you take care of them to maintain a healthy mouth. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many teeth do people have?

    Most people will have a total of 32 permanent teeth once they become adults.

  • How many wisdom teeth do people have?

    People typically have a total of four wisdom teeth.

  • How long does wisdom teeth removal take?

    The time for wisdom teeth removal varies by the type of extraction, but can last from a few minutes to 20 minutes, or, in some cases, a bit longer. 

  • Can wisdom teeth cause headaches?

    Yes, wisdom tooth pain or any toothache could lead to a headache.

Was this page helpful?
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Dental Association. Tooth Eruption.

  2. Rakhshan V. Congenitally missing teeth (Hypodontia): A review of the literature concerning the etiology, prevalence, risk factors, patterns and treatmentDent Res J (Isfahan). 2015;12(1):1-13.

  3. Jung YH, Cho BH. Prevalence of missing and impacted third molars in adults aged 25 years and aboveImaging Sci Dent. 2013;43(4):219–225. doi:10.5624/isd.2013.43.4.219

  4. Friedman JW. The prophylactic extraction of third molars: a public health hazard. Am J Public Health. 2007;97(9):1554-1559.

  5. American Dental Association. Wisdom teeth.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. The Prophylactic Extraction of Third Molars: A Public Health Hazard.

  7. Authority Dental. How much does a wisdom tooth extraction cost? What impacts the price the most?.

  8. NHS. Overview: Wisdom Tooth Removal.