Get wise with wisdom teeth

Get wise with wisdom teeth

March 10, 2020 6:45 am Published by

Wisdom teeth have a bad reputation! The last of the adult teeth to show through, they’re famous for causing problems for many people. Whether it’s surgery to remove them or just the pain and discomfort that can be caused by their growth, the mention of wisdom teeth is usually synonymous with ‘annoyance’.

  • What are they?

So, what are wisdom teeth, and why all the negativity? Wisdom teeth are more properly known as the third set of molars. Located right at the back of the mouth, they normally show through in your late teens and early twenties, though some people notice them much later in life. Some never develop wisdom teeth at all. There are usually four – one for each corner of the mouth. While it’s not known for sure, the general belief is that wisdom teeth historically were a useful set of ‘top-up’ teeth – with poor diets and non-existent dental hygiene, other teeth were likely to be lost much earlier in life. It’s also thought that prehistoric humans had larger jaws than we do now.

  • Why do they cause problems?

We’re lucky enough to live at a time when dentistry allows us to keep our adult set of 28 teeth for a lifetime. This can lead to a number of wisdom tooth complications. When they start to show through, there may not be enough space for them in the mouth. They might grow at the wrong angle also. Both these facts mean that wisdom teeth can become ‘impacted’ – where they are blocked from emerging properly. Sometimes cysts may form underneath the teeth, which can cause serious bone loss as well as a lot of pain. Sometimes wisdom teeth don’t cause any pain or discomfort but simply fail to show through properly. This can make them harder to keep clean – particularly as they’re at the back – and tooth decay is much more likely, as food detritus and bacteria accumulate.

  • What do I do about it?

Some people will be lucky enough to have no problems with their wisdom tooth at all. If this applies to you, then there’s no need to do anything – just consider buying a long-stemmed brush (you can purchase one from a dentist) that will help you keep the teeth clean. However, if you are in pain you should see a dentist, who will be able to tell you if they need taking out. If you are having orthodontic work separately, the dentist may also want to remove wisdom teeth to ensure their growth doesn’t undo all the good work later.

  • What happens if my wisdom tooth is removed?

Many dentists prefer to remove wisdom teeth when you’re in your twenties, as the tooth roots are not fully solidified. It could either be your normal dentist or a specialist surgeon that has the task of removing your wisdom teeth. Depending on if you need one or all four teeth removing, they may use local or general anesthetic. If you opt for general anesthetic, you won’t remember a thing – though you will need someone to collect you afterward. The process usually takes a few minutes and no more than half an hour. After removal, it is sore for a few days and your jaw will be swollen. Painkillers and antibiotics will be prescribed to help as much as possible. The good news is – once the wisdom teeth are gone, all the problems associated with them disappear also.

  • Are there any complications?

The biggest risk is a painful condition called ‘dry socket’ – a dull ache around the area, where the underlying nerve has become exposed. If this does happen your dentist will help alleviate symptoms with a special dressing. However, this is much less likely to develop if you follow the aftercare instructions from your dentist thoroughly. You’ll need a check-up around a week or so afterward. For wisdom tooth surgery, nerve damage is a possibility, though your dentist will work to avoid this as much as possible.

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