Wisdom teeth, or third molars as they are also known, grow at the very back of the gums, and are the last adult teeth to emerge, usually during the late teens or early twenties. But because of their tardy arrival and the fact that all the other teeth are already in place, wisdom teeth can be short of space, and this can lead to problems that mean removal is often the best option.
Should I have them removed?
When there isn't enough room for the wisdom teeth to emerge fully, they can grow at an angle, emerge only partially, or get stuck without fully breaking through the surface of the gum. This is what is known as an 'impacted' tooth, and when it occurs, food and bacteria can easily get trapped along the edge of the tooth, potentially leading to a build-up of plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.
If your dentist hasn't already picked up a problem on one of your important regular visits, but you are experiencing severe pain or discomfort in the wisdom tooth area, you should book an appointment to see whether impacted teeth are the cause. In some cases it is not necessary to remove the teeth as they are not causing any problems.
The removal process
One of the most common procedures carried out in the UK, the removal of wisdom teeth can be done either by a dentist or by a specialist surgeon.
Generally you will need only a local anaesthetic injection before the procedure, though valium is sometimes prescribed so don't expect to make your way home after the operation under your own steam.
The surgeon or dentist will start by rocking the tooth back and forth to widen the socket, and sometimes an incision in the gum is needed in order to remove the tooth in smaller pieces. Depending on the state of the tooth and how impacted it may be, the procedure can last anywhere from just a few minutes to more than 20.
Following the op, patients usually feel some swelling and discomfort, but the pain commonly subsides within a few days. Painkillers are advised for this early recovery period, and the dentist or surgeon may suggest an antiseptic mouthwash is used over the first few days, in order to reduce the chances of infection.
Eating soft food may help to ease the pain, and it is wise to avoid hot drinks or alcohol for 24 hours.
However, as long as you follow the dentist's aftercare advice, there should be little chance of complications, and your mouth will be an altogether happier place once any troublesome wisdom teeth have been removed.
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