Wisdom teeth are no different than other teeth except that they are the last ones to grow into the mouth. Some people do not grow any wisdom teeth. Healthy and properly positioned wisdom teeth can be as useful as other teeth. However, they can cause problems if the teeth do not erupt into the mouth properly.
What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
The term that is used to describe wisdom teeth that don’t come through normally is impacted wisdom teeth. Two reasons for this are:
- The lack of space
- Other teeth being in the way
Impaction means that the tooth may be partially trapped by the jawbone, back teeth or gums. These teeth can grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Just because a tooth has not erupted doesn’t mean it is impacted. The teeth may be developing slowly and it may be too early to tell. Only a dentist, with use of x-rays, can determine if the jaw size can accommodate up to four wisdom teeth and whether the teeth are growing properly.
Problems with wisdom teeth
For most people, wisdom teeth cause no problems at all, but some people can suffer problems such as inflammation of the surrounding gum, higher risk of tooth decay and possible problems with teeth in later life.
When should wisdom teeth be removed?
Patients who have a lot of problems with their wisdom teeth should have them removed. Problems which include –
- Recurrent infections of overlying gum
- Untreatable tooth decay
- Damage to adjacent teeth
Some wisdom teeth can be removed with ease in a few minutes by your dentist, especially upper wisdom teeth. However, some wisdom teeth can be more difficult to remove and in that case your dentist would refer you to an oral surgeon, who is a specialist dentist, to have the teeth removed. The removal of wisdom teeth by the oral surgeon can be performed under local anaesthetic or conscious sedation. The first few hours after extractions can sometimes be uncomfortable and you may require painkillers or stronger pain medication prescribed by the dentist/oral surgeon.