Wisdom teeth are the four molars that may or may not appear at the back of your mouth.
Also known as third molars, they originally served a functional purpose for our distant ancestors who had diets requiring extra chewing power. However, in modern times, they often pose problems due to a lack of space in the jaw, leading to issues like impaction, misalignment, crowding, infection, and tooth decay.
As a result, wisdom teeth are frequently removed to prevent or address these complications. Their presence, development, and need for removal can vary from person to person.
When do wisdom teeth erupt?
They typically erupt in late adolescence or early adulthood, usually between the ages of 17 and 25. The timing can vary from person to person and some may experience the eruption earlier or later than this age range.
What happens when wisdom teeth erupt?
The process usually occurs over several months, and sometimes causes discomfort or pain as the teeth push through the gum tissue.
In some cases, they may not fully erupt and become impacted. Such impacted wisdom teeth are trapped beneath the gum or bone, and may require dental intervention, such as extraction, if they cause pain, infection, or dental issues.
Everyone is different
It’s important to note that not everyone develops wisdom teeth, and some people may have only one or two, while others may have none at all. The development and eruption can vary widely.
Reasons for extracting wisdom teeth
Impaction: Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to emerge, and there may not be enough space in the jaw to accommodate them properly. This can lead to impaction, where they do not fully emerge or are trapped beneath the gum tissue or jawbone, causing pain, swelling, and infection.
Misalignment: Wisdom teeth may emerge at an angle, causing them to be misaligned with the adjacent teeth. This misalignment can disrupt the proper alignment of your other teeth and bite, potentially leading to bite problems and difficulty cleaning the area, which increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Crowding: Wisdom teeth can contribute to crowding issues in the mouth. If there isn’t enough space for them to come in properly, they can push against adjacent teeth, causing crowding and shifting of the teeth. This can affect the alignment of your smile and may require orthodontic treatment to correct.
Infection and Gum Disease: The location of wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth makes them harder to clean properly, which can increase the risk of infection and gum disease. This can lead to painful conditions like pericoronitis, which is inflammation of the tissue surrounding a partially erupted molar.
Cysts and Tumors: In some cases, cysts or tumors may develop around impacted wisdom teeth. These growths can cause damage to the jawbone and surrounding teeth and may require surgical removal.
Tooth Decay: Wisdom teeth are located in a hard-to-reach area of the mouth, making them more susceptible to tooth decay. If decay occurs and is left untreated, it can lead to cavities and potential complications.
Due to these potential issues, many dentists and oral surgeons recommend the removal of wisdom teeth in cases where there is a high likelihood of problems or when problems have already arisen. Extraction is common, and often performed preventively or to address existing issues.
Dentists and oral surgeons typically evaluate the positioning and development of wisdom teeth through X-rays and clinical examinations to determine whether extraction is necessary. Early removal is often recommended to avoid complications and ensure a smoother recovery.
Before wisdom teeth extraction
Prior to the treatment, we’ll talk to you about options for anaesthetic so that you don’t experience any pain. Usually a local anaesthetic is fine, and all you’ll feel is some pressure as your wisdom tooth is being removed.
It may be possible to remove the tooth in one piece or in small pieces, depending on how it is positioned. If more than one tooth is to be extracted, we may do this over a few appointments rather than during one.
If your preference is to have all four wisdom teeth removed at once, the dentist can refer you to an oral surgeon who can do this under general anaesthetic or twilight sedation.
You’ll most likely feel some discomfort in your gum and jaw, along with some swelling and minor bleeding over the first few days. Your dentist will offer after care advice, which may include:
- Taking paracetamol or another recommended pain relief medicine
- Eating soft foods and avoiding hot or cold drinks
- Using a salty mouthwash after the first 24 hours
If you are experiencing any pain or problems with your teeth or gums, please get in contact immediately so that we can identify the cause and help you.
Avon Valley Dental Centre
59 Duke Street, Northam WA 6401
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