Wisdom teeth are rear molars that erupt last, usually around the late teens or early 20s. There are normally two wisdom teeth in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw.
Wisdom teeth can cause various dental problems. Sometimes it will be recommended that problematic and painful wisdom teeth be removed.
Wisdom teeth infection – In some cases, there may not be enough room in the jaw for wisdom teeth. This can make brushing and flossing these teeth very difficult. Food and bacteria will build up between the wisdom tooth and its neighbouring molar, therefore decay and gum infections are more likely.
The symptoms of an infection caused by a wisdom tooth include:
Infections caused by wisdom teeth can be treated, but the infection will keep coming back unless the teeth are removed. People with pre-existing health problems and compromised immunity can suffer serious complications from these infections.
Cheek biting and chewing problems – Crowded wisdom teeth may grate against the cheek, causing ulcers on the cheek and chewing problems.
Impaction – Impaction is where the wisdom tooth erupts at an angle and pushes into the next tooth (hard impaction) or the gum (soft impaction). A wisdom tooth that grows on an angle can’t contribute to chewing, making it useless as well as potentially painful.
Wisdom tooth extraction, where required, is best performed sooner rather than later.
Using x-rays, your dentist can determine which wisdom teeth need to be removed. Sometimes, a person may need all of the wisdom teeth extracted. The operation may be performed in the chair using local anaesthetic or in an operating theatre under a general anaesthetic, depending on the complexity of the problem.
Your jaw and gum are likely to be sore, swollen and prone to bleeding for a few days after the operation. One of the possible post-surgery complications is a dry socket where the site doesn’t heal as well as it should. This can be successfully treated by your dentist.
Your dentist or oral health professional will offer instructions on caring for your mouth after surgery, but general suggestions for self-care after a tooth extraction include:
Last updated: 2014-02-04