14 Jun Wisdom Teeth: A Short Guide
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the third and last molars on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Most people have 4 wisdom teeth in each top and bottom corner of their gums at the back of their mouth. Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to erupt, and they usually come in during the late teens or early twenties.
Many don’t experience any problems with their wisdom teeth as they grow through without issues or they do not emerge at all. However, as they are the last teeth to come through, there is often a lack of space in the already crowded mouth and not enough room left for the teeth to erupt or grow properly. As a result, they can grow in at a crooked angle or remain trapped within the gum tissue and only partially emerge. Wisdom teeth that grow like this are known as impacted.
A problem often arises when the wisdom tooth is impacted. If the teeth are impacted, swelling, tenderness, discomfort, pain, and infection may occur in the mouth and jaw. You should contact your dentist if your wisdom teeth are causing severe pain. The dentist will assess your teeth and carry out an x-ray to view the position of the teeth to determine whether they need to be removed.
The wisdom teeth won’t usually need to be removed if they are impacted but not causing any pain or problems as there is no benefit of removing them and doing so can risk complications. However, sometimes wisdom teeth that are impacted or not fully erupted can cause greater issues. Food and bacteria can get trapped around the edge of the teeth and under the gum tissue, causing a buildup of plaque and leading to a variety of different issues including tooth decay, gum disease (gingivitis/periodontal disease), pericoronitis (plaque causes an infection of the soft tissue surrounding the tooth), cellulitis (a bacterial infection of the cheek, tongue, and throat), abscess (pus in wisdom teeth or surrounding tissue as a result of bacterial infection) or cysts (fluid-filled swelling).
If the teeth are impacted and causing severe pain or any of the issues above, removal is recommended when other treatments such as antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash are not successful. Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common surgical procedures in the UK and is performed by your dentist or a specialist surgeon. The dentist will use a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area around the tooth and if the tooth has erupted, the dentist will remove it. If the tooth is impacted below the gum line, a small cut will be made into the gum to remove the tooth. The procedure could take anything from a few minutes to 20 minutes. After the treatment, you may experience swelling, discomfort, and bruising in the face, neck, and jaw once the tooth has been removed, but it will go away in a few days.
There can be complications and risks as with all surgery, such as infection and delayed healing. Dry socket may occur in which you experience a dull pain or aching sensation in the gum or jaw, and is caused when the blood clot that seals the tooth socket so that it can heal breaks or is dislodged, exposing the bone and nerves. Maintaining good dental hygiene and proper aftercare will help prevent these complications, but consult a dentist if the pain in your jaw does not subside.