Teeth are all supposed to fit together – right? Tell that to your wisdom teeth – they seem to have a mind of their own!
What are wisdom teeth, and why are they such a problem?
Wisdom teeth usually appear at the back of your mouth during your late teens or early twenties. Often there is no room for them to ‘erupt’ (come through the gum) and the teeth fail to emerge properly. A wisdom tooth can erupt partly through the gum, or remain trapped below the gum – this is known as an ‘impacted’ wisdom tooth.
Why don’t my wisdom teeth fit my mouth?
There are a few theories as to why wisdom teeth don’t fit many people’s mouths. Some experts think genetics may play a part – for example you may have inherited one parent’s small jaw, and another parent’s large teeth. Another theory suggests the size of our mouths has decreased over the centuries, because our diet has changed and our jaws don’t need to be as large and strong as they were in prehistoric times.
Do I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?
Your wisdom teeth only need to be removed if they cause problems. For example:
- wisdom teeth can be very difficult to clean, and are prone to tooth decay, gum disease and recurring infections
- cysts and tumours can develop in tissues around impacted wisdom teeth
- if your wisdom teeth are unable to erupt, they may cause pressure and damage or crowd the neighbouring teeth
If my wisdom teeth need removing, who will do it?
Straightforward removal of wisdom teeth may be done in your own dentist’s surgery. If your case is more complex, your dentist may decide to refer you to an oral surgeon.
Will it hurt?
Surgical removal of wisdom teeth can cause more discomfort than routine extractions. You may experience:
- some swelling and minor bleeding
- difficulty in fully opening your mouth
- a change of sensation or numbness of your lip or chin
All of these symptoms are temporary, and in most cases your mouth will be feeling normal a week after your surgery.