There is much folklore regarding wisdom teeth and their removal. Below we will explain the problems associated with them and the different treatment options avialable.
Frequently Asked Questions

At what age are they likely to cause problems?

Wisdom teeth commonly cause the majority of problems during the late teens and early twentys as it is during this period that they are erupting. After age 25 there is a much lesser likelyhood of problems occuring.

Why do we have problems with wisdom teeth?

Due to the way we have evolved we have shorter jaw bones but still the same number of teeth. Space is limited at the back of the mouth and as the wisdom teeth are the last to erupt they may become impacted. The term impacted means that they become jammed in between the second molars and the bone at the back of the jaw and cannot therefore erupt fully. When the tooth is partially erupted a gum flap extends over the crown of the tooth. Bacteria and food get stuck underneath this flap which makes the area become inflammed and swollen.

The gum flap on this tooth has collected bacteria and plaque underneath it. This makes it sore and it swells up and becomes red. This condition can become so severe that the jaw becomes swollen and there is difficulty in opening the mouth. The immediate treatment is to give antibiotics which will reduce the swelling and pain. The technical name for this condition is 'pericoronitis'.
Will I have to go to hospital to have them taken out?

This all depends on how deep the wisdom teeth are within the jaw. If the majority of the tooth is above the gum then any dentist should be able to remove them without much problem. Many 'impacted' teeth may need to have bone removed in order to extract them as the bone partially covers the top of the crown. This is may be carried out in hospital under a general anaesthetic.

Are there any risks involved?

Occasionally a nerve may be damaged when removing a wisdom tooth. This may result in a numbness of the lower lip which may last for upto 6 months though in some cases it could remain for good.

How can I avoid problems with my wisdom teeth?

Pain with wisdom teeth is usually started by a plaque build up around the gum flap which partially covers the tooth. This may occur because it is a difficult area to reach with a toothbrush and is easily overlooked during toothbrushing. By brushing in front of a mirror, you can see where you are actually brushing thereby making sure that you don't miss any area. Many patients who, after attending with 'pericoronitis' have taken this advice don't have any further problems .

The use of a mouthwash may also help. Chlorhexidine mouthwash is recommended for short term use with pericoronitis. Care should be taken though as this mouthwash may cause staining of the teeth if toothbrushing is not carried out beforehand as it reacts with the plaque.