Frequently Asked Questions About Wisdom Teeth

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are teeth that sit at the very back of the mouth. They are also known as the third molars, because they sit behind the first and second molars. They are the last adult teeth to come into the mouth.

When do wisdom teeth usually start to appear?

It is common for wisdom teeth to begin to appear when people are around 18 to 25 years old. However, this can occur earlier or later, or not at all for some people.

How many wisdom teeth are there?

There are four wisdom teeth, one on both sides at the top and bottom. Not everyone has these teeth and for some people who do, they never emerge. Sometimes only one, two, or three wisdom teeth emerge. For others, all four wisdom teeth emerge.

Why do wisdom teeth cause problems?

Not all wisdom teeth cause problems and some of them can emerge and be kept forever without the need for wisdom teeth removal at your dentist.

Wisdom teeth may cause problems for a number of reasons. The most common reason is because there is not enough space for them to emerge and there is something blocking them from entering the mouth. This can include a lack of space between the second molar and the bone. This situation is described as an ‘impacted’ wisdom tooth. A tooth can become impacted before it protrudes from the gum, or when it is only partially protruded from the gum.

Impaction can be unpleasant. People report a sensation of pressure in the mouth, and become vulnerable to pain, infection, and cysts. Wisdom teeth may rub against the cheeks, causing ulcers and making it harder to chew. They may also be more prone to tooth decay because of their position within the mouth and the grooves they create which tend to capture food easily. Similarly, the likelihood of gum infections (known as pericoronitis) is heightened. There is some suggestion that wisdom teeth can cause overcrowding of the teeth as well.

Wisdom teeth can sometimes impact the nerves which can be highly painful and make surgery more complicated. It is one of the reasons you should see your dentist early to make treatment as simple as possible.

What symptoms of wisdom teeth should I be aware of?

Patients should keep careful watch on all of the above problems that wisdom teeth should cause. They should also always be mindful of symptoms of infection which may include redness and inflammation of the gums, swelling of the face, pus, sensitivity, sore lymph nodes, and fever.

When will a dentist check my wisdom teeth?

A dentist will check your wisdom teeth if you are experiencing symptoms of your wisdom teeth emerging as described above. They may also wish to check your wisdom teeth if you are of the age when you are likely to have your wisdom teeth emerge. During a check-up and clean at your dentist dental professional, they may also detect signs that you have not yet noticed and wish to investigate further.

When will a dental specialist recommend that my wisdom teeth be removed?

Your dental professional will advise that wisdom teeth be removed if they are projected to cause issues, if they are currently causing issues, or if they are resulting in pain for you or your child. Before any issues arise, with timely detection, your dental specialist can often assess the availability of space in the mouth, and how wisdom teeth will ‘behave’ when they start to emerge.

How does my dentist remove wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth can be surgically removed under local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic. Sedation may be another option. Your dental practitioner will be able to recommend and talk through your various options during your appointment. For many wisdom tooth surgeries your dental professional will be able to manage the procedure in the clinic and will remove the teeth, afterwards using stitches to aid the healing process.

What sort of care is necessary after my wisdom teeth are removed?

Often after your wisdom tooth removal surgery your dental specialist will recommend pain medications, the eating of soft foods, avoidance of smoking and alcohol, methods to keep the surgery site clean and limit inflammation and bleeding, and other methods of care. Your dentist will provide you with a detailed recovery plan. Recovery can take between one and two weeks.

Booking an appointment to investigate your wisdom teeth

Do you think you or your children may be experiencing wisdom tooth eruption? If there are signs that wisdom teeth are emerging, then you should book a check-up and clean with your dentist as soon as possible.