Your wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars at the back of your mouth, which typically emerge between ages 17 to 21. They are the final teeth to make an appearance in your mouth and while most may not mind having them, others find them too problematic.
Causes of problems with wisdom teeth
When the teeth are healthy and in the right position, they do not lead to any problems. However, it is still important to see a dentist to ensure they are growing in the right position and prevent future complications.
You may experience problems with your wisdom teeth if any of the following occur:
- Your wisdom teeth erupt from the gums partially due to the lack of space in your mouth. This causes a flap of gum tissue to develop over the teeth, which may trap food and contribute to a gum infection.
- Your jaw does not have enough room to accommodate your wisdom teeth. This causes the teeth to get stuck in your jaw without being able to break through the gums. Such teeth are referred to as impacted teeth.
- The teeth grow slanted or face the wrong direction.
- They are too far at the back. This makes it difficult to clean around them.
- Formation of cysts, which damages bones and roots.
Although they’re called “wisdom” teeth, most people would much rather not have them. This is because of the myriad of issues they cause and increase your risk to, even if you have the best oral health. When there’s a risk of problems, dentists may recommend extracting your wisdom teeth. Some risks of keeping your wisdom teeth include:
This problem a relatively common cause of wisdom tooth pain. Accumulation of plaque causes infection of the gum and soft tissue that surround the tooth. Symptoms of this include pain, a throbbing sensation and facial swelling. You’ll generally feel sick and may not be able to open your mouth sufficiently as normal.
Gum disease (gingivitis)
Gingivitis occurs when plaque releases toxins around the tooth, irritating the gums and making them red, painful and swollen.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque breaks down the hard surface of your tooth. As decay progresses, it leaves cavities in the tooth, which can even affect other nearby teeth.
A bacterial infection may cause pus to collect in your teeth and surrounding tissue. This is an urgent issue which requires emergency dental treatment.
Occasionally, teeth that don’t completely erupt from the gums may develop cysts, fluid filled swellings in the gum tissue.
Most of these problems can be treated using antiseptic mouthwashes, antibiotics and good oral hygiene. Some problems are more serious than others and require further treatment, which often includes removing the entire wisdom tooth as well. Further advice will be provided to you by your dentist on what treatment option suits you best following a complete oral examination.