Several of my friends have recently gotten their wisdom teeth out and it seems so painful. My dentist hasn’t mentioned anything about it to me—will I have to get mine out too?

Great question! Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, but a lot of people do because they can cause problems down the road. Whether you’ll need to get yours out depends on how they grow in.

Let’s do a quick brush up on what wisdom teeth are. They’re the four molars farthest back in your mouth (one on each side of your upper and lower jaw). They usually don’t grow in until your late teens or early twenties, and there are several reasons many people get them removed around that age. First, wisdom teeth can crowd your mouth, moving your other teeth out of place.  Second, many people’s wisdom teeth don’t break through their gums. When this happens, the teeth are called “impacted,” and it’s not good. Impacted wisdom teeth can grow into the nerves of the tooth next door, which can be incredibly painful. If your wisdom teeth are impacted, your dentist will almost certainly want to remove them.

Even if they’re not impacted, wisdom teeth can be difficult to take care of. Because they’re alllll the way at the back of your mouth, they’re hard to reach for brushing and flossing and develop cavities super easy. If you end up not getting your wisdom teeth removed, be sure to take extra special care of them.

So plan to ask your dentist about your wisdom teeth next time you see them. They’ll be able to give you a better sense of what’s going on with your chompers. And remember that most people don’t have a painful experience with their wisdom teeth—your dentist will give you local or general anesthesia for the procedure, and pain medication for after. For a lot of people, wisdom teeth removal means they have a slightly uncomfortable day or two, and a great excuse to eat all the ice cream you want!