What are the wisdom teeth and do we always get them?
Adults can have up to 32 teeth. The wisdom teeth are the last to come through, right at the back.
They usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25, although they may appear many years later. Nowadays people often have jaws that are too small for all 32 teeth – 28 is often the most we have room for.
So if all the other teeth are present and healthy there may not be enough space for the wisdom teeth to come through properly.
Do wisdom teeth always cause problems?
No. If there is enough room they will usually come through into a useful position and cause no more problems than any other tooth.
Often there will be some slight discomfort as they come through, but this is only temporary and will disappear once the tooth is fully in position. Regular Hygienist visits and appropriate cleaning techniques will help to reduce any problems typically associated with wisdom teeth.
Will wisdom teeth affect the position of my other teeth?
Studies have shown that, although they may play a small role in the movement of teeth in late adolescence and later, they are not the main cause and several other important factors such as residual growth must be considered.
Even when third molars are extracted, it is common to see dental movements of the other teeth occur thereafter. Therefore, it has been concluded that it is inappropriate to extract third molars only to prevent unwanted dental movement.
What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
If there is not enough room, the wisdom tooth may try to come through, but will get stuck against the tooth in front of it. The wisdom tooth will be at an angle, and will be described by the dentist as ‘impacted’. There are different types of impacted wisdom teeth, depending on the way the tooth has grown through:
- Mesial impaction – where the tooth grows at an angle facing towards the front of the mouth
- Vertical impaction – where the tooth is straight but can’t break through the gums properly because it’s stuck against the tooth next to it
- Horizontal impaction – where the tooth grows horizontally
- Distal impaction – where the wisdom tooth grows away from the tooth next to it and becomes lodged in that position
What problems should I be prepared for with wisdom teeth?
If part of the wisdom tooth has appeared through the gum and part of it is still covered, the gum may become sore and perhaps swollen. Food particles and bacteria can collect under the gum edge, and it will be difficult to clean the area effectively. This is known as pericoronitis.
This is a temporary problem that can be dealt with by using mouthwashes and special cleaning methods and possibly antibiotics. If the problem keeps coming back, it may be better to have the tooth removed.
What can I do to help relieve the discomfort of wisdom teeth?
A mouthwash of medium hot water with a teaspoonful of salt will help to reduce gum soreness and inflammation (check that it is not too hot before using it). Swish the salt water around the tooth, trying to get into the areas your toothbrush cannot reach. This should be done several times a day.
An antibacterial mouthwash containing chlorhexidine (such as Corsodyl) can also reduce the inflammation. Pain-relieving tablets such as paracetamol or aspirin can also be useful in the short term, but consult your dentist if the pain continues. These should always be swallowed and in no circumstances be placed on the area.
How can the247 dentist help with wisdom teeth pain?
If the pain does not go away or if you find it difficult to open your mouth, you should see a dentist promptly. The247dentist will be able to identify the cause of the problem, and advise you accordingly.
They may to clean around the tooth with specialist cleaning equipment, prescribe an antibiotic, or even extract the tooth in some circumstances.
What are the main reasons for taking wisdom teeth out?
Far fewer wisdom teeth are now taken out than in the past. If the tooth is not causing problems, the dentist will not want to remove it.
They will only remove wisdom teeth:-
- When they have caused repeated episodes of severe discomfort and it is clear that there is insufficient room for them to erupt into a functional position
- If they have only partly come through and are decayed and unrestorable – such teeth can decay if extra care is not taken to keep them clean
Are wisdom teeth difficult to take out?
It all depends on the position and the shape of the roots. Your dentist will tell you how easy or difficult each tooth will be to remove after looking at the x-rays. Upper wisdom teeth are often easier to remove than lower ones, which are more likely to be impacted. Your dentist will say whether the tooth should be taken out at the dental practice, or whether you should be referred to a specialist (oral surgeon) at a hospital. Very occasionally there is a possibility of some numbness of the lip after the removal of a lower tooth.
If you’re particularly anxious about the procedure then sedation and in rare cases, General Anaesthetic, is available in specialist centres and some Dental Practices.
Will it make any difference to my face or mouth?
Removing wisdom teeth may cause some swelling for a few days. But as soon as the area is healed, there will be no difference to your face or appearance. Your mouth will feel more comfortable and less crowded, especially if the teeth were impacted.