What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last molars in your mouth also called third molars and they are found on both the upper and lower jaw of your mouth. Although some people develop less wisdom teeth or in some rare cases no wisdom teeth at all.

The wisdom teeth are commonly the last teeth to erupt, generally around your late teens or early twenties. Problems with the wisdom teeth tend to develop gradually as their development spans over several years. However it is quite common for the changes to cause sudden and often severe pain.

How to survive getting wisdom teeth pulled

How to recognise if you have wisdom teeth problems?

  1. Let the dentist take an x-ray.
  2. You may need some antibiotics to start cleaning the wisdom teeth area.
  3. Schedule a consultation with the dentist to arrange the cleaning of the wisdom teeth area or the extraction.
  4. Have a sense of the dental practice or better still ask about the sterilization procedures.

Why remove wisdom teeth?

Dentists recommend the removal of wisdom teeth in order to avoid problems that may arise in the future. Problems include overcrowding of the existing teeth and impaction. This occurs when the wisdom tooth erupts at an angle and impacts either the molar tooth that is in front of it, known as hard impaction, or the gum, known as soft impaction.

A wisdom tooth growing on an angle is no longer useful for chewing which makes it not only painful but also useless. It is therefore recommended that such wisdom teeth be removed.

Why do wisdom teeth cause problems?

Your jawbone normally grows to its approximate adult size but the end of your teenage years. However this size is often too small to hold the slowly developing wisdom teeth. The reason for this is because our jaws are smaller than those of early humans who needed large jaws and more teeth due to their tough diet.

What kind of problems can wisdom teeth cause if they are not removed?

Tooth decay

Bacteria and food particles can collect around the impacted wisdom tooth which could cause the wisdom tooth or the surrounding teeth to decay. Often infection follows this.

Gum infection

Bacteria and food particles can collect around the partially erupted wisdom tooth leading to a localized infection. This may manifest in pain, swelling, bad breath and an inability to fully open your mouth. If this is left untreated, the infection can spread to the cheek and neck.

Pressure pain

Pain can arise from the pressure of the erupting wisdom tooth on the surrounding teeth. In extreme cases the pressure may even cause erosion of the surrounding teeth.

Cyst formation (fluid filled sac)

A cyst may develop from soft tissue around the impacted wisdom tooth. The cyst could lead to bone destruction, jaw expansion and displacement or damage to nearby teeth. In extreme cases the cyst could potentially lead to a tumour or the jaw may fracture spontaneously if the cyst grows large.

Orthodontic reasons

Wisdom teeth, as they erupt, may cause teeth to move forwards and so compromising the orthodontic results.

Prosthetic reasons

If a wisdom tooth erupts below a denture it could cause a lot of irritation. Furthermore, once it is removed, the shape of the gum would have changed and therefore a new denture will need to be created.

When should I have my wisdom teeth removed?

It is recommended that impacted wisdom teeth be removed between 14 and 22 years of age whether or not they are causing problems. The risk of complications during any operation increases with age and the healing process is slower.

What should I expect when I have my wisdom teeth removed?

Firstly your dentist will use x-rays to determine which wisdom teeth need to be removed. The actual removal of the impacted wisdom teeth requires a minor surgical operation. Depending on the complexity of the problem your dentist will carry out the wisdom teeth extraction under local or general anesthetic.

The surgery itself involves an incision to uncover the wisdom tooth’s crown followed by the removal of the tooth in sections by your dentist. If it was necessary to remove any bone, new bone will be regenerated over six to eight weeks. Following the extraction the dentist will put stitches in place.

Once the teeth are removed you will experience pain and swelling. The pain should reduce after the first two days and is managed with painkillers. The swelling will subside after five days, along with any bruising and skin discolouration that may have occurred. Another common symptom is that the jaw muscles become tight and may be up to two weeks till you will be able to open your mouth widely and comfortably.

The first 6-8 hours after your wisdom teeth have been removed are usually the worst. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Try not to disturb the site of extraction: this may lead to infection and bleeding
  • Do not smoke for 12 hours: this will promote bleeding
  • Do not spit or suck through a straw: this will promote bleeding