Wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth to come through the gums. This usually happens in the late teenage years. Most people have four wisdom teeth, but it is not uncommon for people have fewer than this. Often there is little space at the back of the jaw for wisdom teeth to come through. When there isn’t enough room, the tooth will become impacted (wedged in).
Why remove wisdom teeth?
Some impacted wisdom teeth cause no problems, whereas others cause severe difficulties. These difficulties include:
- Infection – impacted and unerupted wisdom teeth have a follicle of soft tissue around the crown of the tooth which is not attached to the enamel. The pocket between the crown of the tooth and the soft tissue follicle is a suitable environment for bacterial proliferation and can result in infection, causing pain, swelling, jaw stiffness and bad breath.
- The procket around the crown of impacted wisdom teeth can act as a reservoir for bacteria and can contribute to periodontal disease (gum disease) around adjacent teeth.
- Crowding – wisdom teeth can sometimes push nearby teeth out of their correct position.
- Cavities – food can become trapped between the wisdom tooth and second molar tooth causing cavities in both teeth.
- Cysts – when impacted wisdom teeth are not removed, a sack of fluid called a cyst can form around the tooth, displacing it and eroding the jaw bone. A cyst might not have any symptoms until it becomes infected.
- We often recommend the removal of non-symptomatic wisdom teeth, if there is a risk of problems occurring in the foreseeable future.
If one or more of your wisdom teeth becomes problematic, we may suggest it be removed before the situation worsens.
What does surgery involve?
After checking your mouth, jaw and x-rays, we’ll discuss your options with you. If there is infection in the area around your wisdom teeth, we may suggest delaying surgery until the infection has been treated. Once the decision has been made to remove your tooth/teeth, we’ll need to discuss anaesthesia options. Your tooth/teeth can be removed under local with intravenous sedation in our rooms or general anaesthetic in hospital. Click here to find out more about anaesthesia.
We will make an incision to open your gums and remove the wisdom tooth. A small portion of the bone may have to be removed so we can get to the tooth. The tooth may need to be divided into segments in order that it can be removed easily and safely. Once the tooth has been removed, we will close the incision with dissolvable stiches. After the surgery, we’ll check on your status and then once you have recovered satisfactorily, you’ll be allowed to go home.
Patients are seen about one week after surgery for a post-operative check.
What else do I need to know about surgery.
For more information about oral hygiene and recovery after surgery click here.