Wisdom Tooth

The wisdom teeth are so called because they don’t usually erupt before the late teens or early twenties by which time a person could be assumed to have attained some wisdom. They come in right at the back of the gums, one in each ‘corner and because they are so late in erupting the other teeth are usually in place and there is no room for more. Because of this potential crowding, the wisdom teeth can emerge at a painful angle or they may fail to come through completely. This is what is known as ‘impacted’ wisdom teeth.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Although your dentist will probably use this general term, there are several ways that wisdom teeth can become impacted.

  • Mesial impaction – this is where the tooth grows at an angle facing forward.
  • Vertical impaction – this is where the tooth is coming in straight, but there is no room for it to come through completely.
  • Horizontal impaction – the tooth grows horizontally.
  • Distal impaction – in this case, the wisdom tooth grows away from its neighbour and becomes lodged.

Why remove wisdom teeth?

If wisdom teeth are impacted or can’t break through the gum, food and bacteria can get trapped around the edge, causing plaque and decay. In bad cases gum disease and infection might develop and because the tooth is so far back in the mouth, treating these issues with improved hygiene is very difficult.

Will I need my wisdom teeth to be removed?

As with any dental pain or other problems in your mouth, you should arrange to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will check your teeth and may advise you that you should have your wisdom teeth removed. If your wisdom teeth are generally healthy, even if they are impacted, there is no need to have them removed; any reputable dentist will advise you that in this case it is better to leave the teeth in situ rather than risk dental complications for no reason. If you are in a lot of pain however, you may be considered a candidate for removal of your wisdom teeth.

Removal and after care

Dental surgeries vary in what procedures they carry out but your dentist will advise you whether your wisdom teeth can be removed at your normal dental practice or whether you need to be referred to a dental surgeon at a local hospital. Wherever your procedure is carried out, you will have some swelling and discomfort for some days, although some people still have problems with bruising for up to two weeks. In the majority of cases, recovery is uneventful and the best way to make sure you have no problems is to be scrupulous in your dental hygiene and rigorous in following your dentist’s advice. Occasionally there is a problem known as ‘dry socket’ which may develop and if you have consistent pain and bad breath you should go back to your dentist immediately. It can be solved with antibiotics but careful cleaning regimes should hopefully mean that you have no further wisdom tooth problems.

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