The number of teeth adults have can be up to 32. Wisdom teeth are the last ones to grow and are located at the back of the mouth. They normally come through between the ages of 17 and 25 but they can erupt in years later. Many people now have jaws that are not big enough for 32 teeth—often we will only have room for 28 at most. This means that if the other teeth are healthy and present, there will not be sufficient space for the wisdom teeth to grow properly.
Do wisdom teeth always lead to issues?
These latecomers do not always lead to dental health problems. If there is enough room to grow they can often develop without causing any more issues than other teeth. In many cases, there will be mild discomfort when they are erupting, but this is temporary and will go when the tooth is completely erupted.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
If there is not sufficient room the teeth can try to grow in but become stuck against another tooth that is in front of it. The wisdom tooth will then come in at an angle and this will be described as an impacted wisdom tooth.
What problems can occur?
It is possible that the gum will get swollen and sore, while particles of food and bacteria may start to collect under the edge of the gum and make it difficult to effectively clean the area. The dentist will be able to let you know whether it is just a temporary problem that can be handled with the use of mouthwash, special methods of cleaning and antibiotics, or whether if the tooth needs to be removed.
How can I help myself?
Corsodyl, or other antibacterial mouthwashes, can help in reducing inflammation. Pain-relieving tablets like aspirin or paracetamol may help in the short term, but you should make an appointment with your dentist if the pain persists. They will be able to identify what is causing the problem and let you know what needs to be done. It can help if you clean thoroughly around the tooth, and the dentist may provide you with a prescription of antibiotics.
Will I need an x-ray?
The dentist will normally take an x-ray to identify the position of the tooth root and to find out if the tooth has enough room to develop.
What are the reasons for wisdom teeth being taken out?
- When it has become clear that the tooth will not grow correctly due to a lack of room, or if it is causing any discomfort or pain.
- If the tooth has only grown in partially and/or it is decayed.
- If the tooth serves no real purpose and is making oral cleaning problematic.
- If wisdom teeth begin to ‘over-grow’. This can happen if a lower tooth has been taken out or cannot grow through due to being impacted, meaning the upper tooth has no other teeth to bite against. The upper tooth will then grow down too far, as it looks for other teeth to make contact with.
Is tooth removal a difficult process?
Much will depend on the root’s shape and position. The dentist will let you know whether the tooth needs to be removed at the dental practice or if you need to be referred to a hospital to see a specialist oral surgeon. In some cases, there is the chance that there could be some numbness in the lip after a lower tooth has been removed. A dentist will let you know if this is likely to happen in your case. It is likely that you will need either sedation or a local anaesthetic—the same as would be used for a filling. It is also possible that you will be given a general anaesthetic (meaning you would be asleep) although this will only be done in a hospital.
Will it change the appearance of my mouth or face?
There will be some swelling for the first few days after the wisdom teeth have been taken out. However, once the area has healed no difference will be caused to your appearance. Your mouth will then feel less crowded and more comfortable, particularly if the tooth was impacted.
What will happen after tooth removal?
The amount of pain and discomfort depends on the ease with which the tooth was taken out. Normally, there will be a small amount of discomfort and swelling for the first few days, and it is vital that you follow the advice you are given about using mouthwash, etc. to assist the healing process. Standard painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin can work in controlling any painful symptoms. Some stitches may be required to help the gum heal. It is likely that the dentist will want to see you roughly a week after the procedure to check everything is going well.