A wisdom tooth is impacted and can cause issues when it is obstructed from erupting fully into the mouth by the tooth in front of it or the surrounding bone or gums.
Improperly erupted wisdom teeth are breeding grounds for bacteria and may cause tooth decay, sometimes even affecting the neighbouring teeth. Infection of the overlying gums can take place as well, resulting in pain and swelling.
More serious problems such as the formation of cysts or tumours around an impacted tooth can occur, leading to destruction of the surrounding jawbone and neighbouring teeth. These conditions may require complex and extensive treatment. As problems can develop silently, without your knowledge, a check-up with your dentist is therefore advisable.
Your initial visit to the dentist includes an examination of your mouth. X-rays are also taken to determine the position of the wisdom teeth, their condition and the status of the adjacent teeth and bone.
To prevent problems associated with impacted wisdom teeth, it is advisable to remove them early. The best time to remove them would be during the teenage years, before the roots of the teeth are fully formed and firmly embedded in the jawbone. Healing is also better during this period, with less risk of complications.
Removing impacted wisdom teeth is a minor surgical procedure that can usually be performed with little discomfort to the patient. The procedure can be performed under local anaesthesia (with or without sedation to control anxiety) or general anaesthesia. Your surgeon will advise you on the type most appropriate for your needs.
The surgery involves uncovering the tooth by lifting the overlying gums aside to expose the tooth and bone. The tooth may need to be sectioned in order to remove it. The gums are then stitched back.
After surgery, some minor bleeding from the wound can be expected, which can be controlled by biting on a piece of gauze over the operation area for about half an hour. Facial swelling and discolouration of the overlying skin will also develop, increasing over the first 72 hours and subsiding thereafter. You may not be able to open your mouth as wide as usual for a few days.
Painkillers, antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash are usually prescribed after the surgery. You will need to maintain good oral hygiene and also stick to a soft diet for a few days following surgery.
If impacted wisdom teeth are left, it can cause decay or other problems for your other healthy teeth. The impacted tooth will also likely cause you pain, which can be relieved by removing it. If the wisdom tooth does erupt, it could also cause overcrowding and force your other teeth to move or overlap.
No, some people do not have wisdom teeth at all. They most commonly appear between the ages of 16-21 and whilst many people will get 4, it is normal to have less than this number or none at all.
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