Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt from the jaw. This usually happens between the ages of 17 and 25, but wisdom teeth may appear earlier or later, or they may not grow at all.
As the other teeth are usually well established by the time wisdom teeth start to come through, this can cause problems with their development that may also affect the surrounding teeth.
If your wisdom teeth are causing trouble, or may be likely to do so in the future, your dentist will usually recommend having them extracted as a corrective or preventive measure.
Wisdom teeth removal is a common dental procedure, but it's still important to know what it involves and what other options may be available so you can decide if it's the right choice for you.
Signs you might need wisdom teeth removal
You might have a problem with a wisdom tooth if you are experiencing pain or other unusual symptoms, especially towards the back of your mouth. This may include:
- pain in your gum or jaw
- red, swollen or bleeding gums
- bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- difficulty opening your mouth
Make an appointment to see your dentist if you're worried about your teeth. They will examine your mouth using x-rays and let you know if you could benefit from wisdom teeth extraction or another treatment.
Wisdom tooth problems don't always have obvious symptoms. Your dentist will spot any signs of problems when they examine your mouth during your regular check-ups.
Common wisdom tooth problems
Most wisdom teeth come through normally with only minor pain or discomfort, but problems are still common. These include:
- Impaction – the tooth fails to erupt from the gum, which may lead to swelling, injury or infection. This may sometimes result in a cyst that can damage the jaw and teeth roots.
- Partial eruption – a tooth only emerges partly from the gum. This may trap bacteria around the tooth and increase your risk of developing oral health problems and infections.
- Over-eruption – if a tooth extends too far, it may cause difficulties with your bite, damage teeth or injure soft tissues in your mouth.
- Misalignment – pressure on wisdom teeth may cause them to erupt at the wrong angle, leading to an uneven bite or a risk of injury to the tooth or your mouth.
- Crowding – even if a wisdom tooth erupts normally, there may not be enough space in the jaw for an extra tooth, causing the surrounding teeth to push together and possibly go crooked.
- Resorption – this less common condition involves a wisdom tooth damaging or dissolving a neighbouring tooth, which may also need to be extracted as a result.
If these problems are not addressed by removing the wisdom tooth, they may have long term consequences for your oral health, such as:
- making it harder to brush and floss your teeth
- increasing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease
- damaging the surrounding teeth or jaw bone
- irritating or injuring the cheeks, gums, lips or other soft tissues in your mouth
- affecting the alignment of your teeth, which may require orthodontic treatment to correct
- causing sinus problems for teeth in the upper jaw
- possibility of infections, abscesses, cysts or tumours forming
For these reasons and more, dentists will recommend extracting wisdom teeth that are likely to cause problems.
Should I get my wisdom teeth taken out early?
Wisdom teeth removal is easier in younger patients whose teeth and jaws are softer or still developing. For this reason, some dentists may recommend extracting wisdom teeth before they start to grow, to prevent possible pain and suffering and what may be a more complex extraction in the future.
Early wisdom tooth removal is usually only recommended if you have a small jaw or there are other indications that wisdom tooth problems may be likely. Some dentists also recommend extracting wisdom teeth prior to pregnancy, as swelling caused by hormone changes may cause problems.
If you are not considered to be at high risk of developing wisdom teeth problems in the future, your dentist will not normally recommend removing them in advance, as any dental procedure involves a risk of complications.
Is wisdom teeth removal safe?
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure that has a high success rate when it's performed by a qualified and experienced dentist, but it's still important to know the possible risks. These can include:
- infection of the treated area
- sinus problems after removing upper wisdom teeth
- damage to surrounding teeth, nerves or jaw bone
- dry socket, if the socket does not heal properly and becomes painful
You can lower your risk of complications and side effects by following your dentist's aftercare instructions. It's generally recommended to:
- take up to a week off work
- avoid strenuous exercise
- rinse your mouth with salt water to aid healing
- not touch the treated site
- avoid smoking, spitting, drinking through a straw or other activities that could dislodge the blood clot and lead to a dry socket
You should expect temporary bleeding and some discomfort, swelling and possible bruising after wisdom teeth removal. Pain and swelling should only last for a few days and may be relieved by taking over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication as directed.
If you experience any unexpected symptoms after your treatment, contact your dentist to make an emergency appointment.
What are the alternatives to removing wisdom teeth?
Not all wisdom teeth have to be removed, even if they are causing minor problems. Your dentist may suggest trying other treatments first, such as:
- Antibiotics or rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash or salt water to help clear an infection
- Painkillers, if wisdom tooth pain is expected to be temporary
- Removing gum tissue from around a partly erupted tooth
- Removing the erupted crown of the tooth only and leaving the root in place
Wisdom tooth removal may still be recommended if these treatments are not effective on their own.
Wisdom teeth removal in Bracken Ridge
If you want to know more about wisdom tooth extraction or you need to see a dentist, call our friendly team on (07) 3261 2405 to book an appointment at Bracken Ridge Dental. You can also get in touch online.