George Stimpson

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At what age do the wisdom teeth appear?

The third molars the hindmost teeth on each side of the upper and lower jaws are called the wisdom teeth because normally they are not cut until a person is between eighteen and twenty-five, when he is supposed to have reached the age of wisdom. "Wisdom teeth" is a translation of Latin dentes sapientiae. Equivalent phrases occur in Greek, Arabic and other languages. To cut one's wisdom teeth signifies reaching the age of discretion. When a person says or does a foolish thing we say he has not yet cut his wisdom teeth. But the cutting of the wisdom teeth does not indicate that physical or mental growth in the individual has ceased. There are cases on record of the wisdom teeth erupting as early as the age of fourteen and as late as the age of sixty-five. In fact, about 40 percent of people never have any wisdom teeth at all. The canine teeth in the upper jaw are called eyeteeth because their roots project upwards nearly to the orbits of the eyes. In both the deciduous and permanent sets the eyeteeth are cut later than most of the other front teeth. Hence to cut one's eye­teeth [page 7] means to be a baby no longer, to be up to snuff or to have one's weather eye open. To draw a person's eyeteeth means to take him down a notch or two, to take the conceit out of him or to fleece him without mercy. Actually the eyeteeth have no closer connection with the eyes than the other upper front teeth.