Mosby’s Dental Dictionary limits the definition of teething to the eruption of the primary, or baby teeth. My personal feeling is that the definition should include any tooth erupting into a previously unoccupied space in the mouth. This definition would then include all of the permanent molars. The permanent molars erupt about every 6 years. The first molars erupt at about age 6 and are sometimes called the 6 year molars. The second molars come in at around age 12 and are refered to sometimes as the 12 year molars. The last permanent molars to erupt are the third molar, or wisdom teeth at around age 18.
The eruption of the permanent molars is accompanied by the same symptoms as the eruption of the primary dentition (teeth). These symptoms include swelling of the gum tissue at the eruption site. Inflammation associated with the eruption of the molar and the breaking down of the gum tissue as the molar comes in. There is also pain associated with the inflammation and breakdown of the gum tissue. Basically the gum tissue is being chewed up as the molar’s occlusal (chewing) surface becomes visible. Care should be taken to keep this area clean during the eruption phase and the individual should stay away from things that fragment, or break apart while chewing. This would include such things as popcorn, chips, nuts, and etc.
Treatment for the symptoms that accompanies the eruption of the permanent molars are the same as for children who are getting their baby teeth. The main difference is that now we are able to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications such as ibuprofen to treat the pain and inflammation associated with teething without worring as much as with babies. The first and second molars are surrounded by gum tissue as they erupt and are less likely to get food and other debris into the eruption site. Wisdom teeth many times erupt through mucosal tissue that is not as fibrous as the gingival (gum) tissue and is not bound to the supportive bone like the gum tissue is. This allows food and debris to get into the eruption site and can cause a low grade infection that requires antibiotic to resolve. It is very important to keep the eruption site as clean as possible by brushing well and rinsing after eating.
Eruption of permanent molars can be a difficult time similar to teething in small children and infants. Treatment of symptoms is easier due to the age of the child. Ibuprofen is a good medication for managing symptoms. Good oral hygiene is very important. As always, if you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist, or me.