Wisdom teeth woes are all too common when it comes to dental pain and discomfort. We give you the low down on whether wisdom teeth removal is right for you.
Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, are found towards the back of your mouth in the four corners of each arch. They typically emerge during late adolescent years, between 17 to 25 years of age.
For some people, wisdom teeth come through without any concerns and function normally as other teeth do. The problem with wisdom teeth usually arises when there is not enough room for them to erupt and they become impacted. An impacted wisdom tooth either fails to completely break through the gums or remains fully embedded below the gum line, and often at an angle which prevents it from erupting into the mouth.
Depending on the tooth position and level of impaction of the tooth, you may or may not feel discomfort from the impaction. If the tooth develops lying sideways or at an angle, it can push against other permanent molars (back teeth) and cause pain. You can also get pain associated with your wisdom tooth due to infection, food trapping around a partially erupted wisdom tooth, tender, swollen gums and cheeks as the tooth erupts or where a fluid-filled swelling develops around the tooth known as a cyst.
Because wisdom teeth commonly lack space to come through your gums without concerns, your dentist will want to check the development of these teeth on a regular basis from about the age of 16 years onwards. This will involve inspecting your mouth and jaws, and taking special x-rays known as OPG’s or periapical x-rays.
X-rays will help your dentist view the shape and angulation of the developing tooth as well as its location in relation to other teeth and underlying nerves.
If there are concerns, your dentist may recommend removal of one or more wisdom teeth. Where your dentist does recommend removal of wisdom teeth, they may recommend having it done while the patient is still young. It is often easier to remove these teeth before the roots fully develop and while the bone is less dense.
The complexity of the procedure to remove wisdom teeth often relates to the type of impaction – for example, vertical, horizontal or angular bone impaction. Depending on the type and extent of impaction, as well as underlying factors pertaining to the individual patient, some wisdom teeth are removed in one session and others over separate appointments. Some patients elect to have the procedure done under general anaesthetic in a hospital setting and depending upon the complexity of the surgery, patients may be referred to a specialist.
As a first step, your dentist is in the best position to advise on wisdom teeth removal and can provide you with all available options should removal be recommended.