Wisdom teeth are the molars (back teeth) that come through last, usually in your late teens or early 20s. This is a normal part of mouth development. There are normally four wisdom teeth – two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw – but some people have more, fewer, or even none at all.
Some wisdom teeth come through without causing any issues, but others are problematic and may need removal or other treatment.
Problems with wisdom teeth
Some wisdom teeth erupt (emerge through the gum) without causing any problems, but sometimes, wisdom teeth come through at an angle and push into the gum or the tooth beside them. This is called impaction.
Impaction of a wisdom tooth can be painful and sometimes causes infection. Brushing these teeth can be difficult. Food and bacteria can get stuck between the wisdom tooth and the tooth next to it, leading to tooth decay and gum infections.
Crowded wisdom teeth in the upper jaw often lean sideways and rub against the cheek. This may cause ulcers on the cheek and chewing problems.
Your oral health professional may recommend that your wisdom teeth be removed if:
there is not enough space in your mouth for your wisdom teeth to come through properly - removing a tooth early may help prevent a future problem
the tooth is hard to clean and access which may affect neighboring teeth
if you are experiencing pain, infection or damage to other teeth
They may also recommend keeping a watch on the tooth in case it looks like causing problems later
Symptoms of wisdom tooth infection
Signs of gum infection caused by wisdom teeth include:
red, inflamed gum near the wisdom tooth
pus coming from the gum
swollen and sore lymph nodes underneath the jaw
difficulty opening the mouth and swallowing
Treatment for wisdom tooth infection
Infections caused by wisdom teeth can be treated:
⦁ by improving oral hygiene in the area
⦁ by having the area cleaned by a dentist
⦁ sometimes, by the prescription of antibiotics.
However, the infection may keep coming back if problem teeth are not removed. People who have other health problems, especially people with lower immunity, may have complications from these infections.
Removal of wisdom teeth
X-rays will help to tell if wisdom teeth might cause problems. Some wisdom teeth do not cause problems and do not need to be taken out.
If your wisdom teeth do need to be taken out, you may be given a local anaesthetic so you won’t feel it – this is the most common pain relief option. Sometimes, however, if your wisdom teeth are deeply impacted (blocked from coming through), or for other medical reasons, you may need a referral to see an Oral Surgeon.
Because wisdom teeth are large, the hole where the tooth was may be stitched to help it heal. It is normal for your jaw and gum to be sore, swollen and bleed for a few days after having a wisdom tooth out.
One possible complication of wisdom teeth removal is a dry socket (alveolar osteitis), when the area where the tooth came from doesn’t heal properly. Bad breath and severe pain from the socket are signs. A dry socket can be successfully treated by your oral health professional.
Problem wisdom teeth are best removed early.
Wisdom teeth don’t usually cause any pain until they start to do damage, so it is best to find out if your wisdom teeth are likely to cause problems sooner rather than later.
The roots of wisdom teeth are still forming when you are a teenager, so it is easier to take them out at this age. It may be more complicated if you wait until later in life, when the roots are fully formed.
Post Operative Care Instructions
Your oral health professional will talk with you about how to care for your mouth after having a wisdom tooth taken out. Some general suggestions include:
⦁ Take pain-relieving medication if needed (and on advice from your oral health professional)
⦁ Hold warm salty water in your mouth. Do this after meals and no earlier than 24 hours after surgery.
⦁ Eat soft, easy-to-chew foods for the next few days
⦁ Avoid smoking - smoking can delay healing and also cause dry socket
⦁ Do not rinse your mouth vigorously. Tilt your head to let the water drop out, avoid spitting
⦁ Avoid alcohol
⦁ Avoid strenuous activity for the first 48 hours