Wisdom Teeth – An Overview
Wisdom teeth or third molars are a common source of pain and discomfort for teenagers and young adults.
So what makes these teeth different to the rest?
The main reason for this is a lack of space at the back of the jaw to fit these large teeth. If the jaw size is large enough, wisdom teeth can come through and function as normal teeth.
Most of the time this is not the case. The wisdom teeth may:
a) Partially erupt into the mouth,
b) Fully erupt on an odd angle to the rest of the teeth
c) Not erupt at all – often described as “impacted” wisdom teeth.
At what age are they a problem?
The usual age of eruption of these teeth is 17-21 years old. They are the last teeth to enter the mouth.
Do I need to have them extracted?
A number of factors influence the decision to extract wisdom teeth. It really depends on the individual situation.
Impacted wisdom teeth, or teeth that cannot fully erupt may present problems including infection, pericoronitis (inflammation) and difficulty maintaining hygiene in the area leading to dental decay or gum problems.
Initially, when the wisdom teeth push through the gum some mild discomfort is felt. This is not necessarily an indication that your wisdom teeth require removal.
From around age 15 onwards, the dentist may arrange for an x-ray known as an OPG (orthopantogram) to assess the position of the wisdom teeth. This gives us the best indication as to whether they will be a problem or not.
For some lucky people, we discover missing wisdom teeth.
Some wisdom teeth questions we are commonly asked:
1. My wisdom teeth are not giving me any trouble, can I leave them?
The decision to remove wisdom teeth that are not symptomatic is dependent on the potential of the teeth to present problems down the track. We will provide an opinion as to the potential for the wisdom teeth to become problematic in the future- then it is up to you to decide.
If the wisdom teeth are partially erupted (not fully through), there is always some potential for infection to occur between the gum and tooth. It may be a ticking timebomb.
Often, your own immune system will take care of this. Patients will tell us that the wisdom teeth were “a little tender” for a few days then settled.
Sometimes it won’t resolve and antibiotics will be required. Occasionally we see severe infections related to infected wisdom teeth that have arisen very quickly, necessitating a hospital visit and emergency removal.
If we recommend wisdom tooth removal, it is to avoid these risks and complications.
2. My wisdom teeth are sore, what is involved in getting them out?
Firstly, book in to see your dentist.
We will then arrange for a full mouth x-ray (OPG).
Some wisdom teeth can be more complicated to remove – as such we often refer patients to see an Oral Surgeon (specialists in wisdom teeth removal). Your dentist can arrange a referral to an Oral surgeon.
Treatment can be carried out to reduce symptoms prior to consulting with the oral surgeon. The dentist may clean thoroughly around the wisdom teeth to reduce bacteria levels. A chlorhexidine rinse may be advised, and sometimes a course of antibiotics and pain medication is needed.
3. Are there any risks involved?
As with any surgery, there are risks involved that require appropriate management.
Your dentist or Oral Surgeon will discuss these with you.
Your recovery form wisdom tooth surgery depends on many factors, but is often a lot shorter than you may think.
If your wisdom teeth are giving you trouble or have done in the past, we strongly recommend booking an appointment with the dentist. If you are currently in pain, call or email an appointment request and we will endeavour to fit you in on the day for assessment.
And if you have any questions, please feel free to give our Melbourne clinic a call on (03) 9596 2092 to discuss.
– Dr. Sean