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Getting Wise About Wisdom Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

11 Nov 2022

Far from being a sign that you should feel good about your knowledge or experience in life, wisdom teeth are often dreaded for the discomfort you may experience as they appear — if they even appear at all. 

Some people get wisdom teeth, and some don’t. If you’re between your late teens to mid-twenties and you’ve got pain at the very back of your mouth behind the rear teeth, chances are your wisdom teeth are trying to erupt. 

If they are in the process of erupting, you might wonder what the problem is with wisdom teeth. You may also want to know whether yours need to be removed. Often, wisdom teeth emerge without issue, but when issues emerge, you’ll need to know what happens next. 

Here are some of the facts you need to know about wisdom teeth. 

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

In our lives, we all have two sets of teeth. The first set develops within the first year of our life. These are replaced by a second permanent set as we go through childhood. Most adult teeth usually appear by around the age of 13. 

During your late teens to mid-twenties, you may develop a third set of molars at the back of the mouth. These sit alongside the permanent teeth that developed in late childhood. 

Often referred to as “wisdom teeth”, problems can arise with these additional teeth erupting if there’s insufficient space to accommodate them. 

You can expect to develop a full set of four wisdom teeth. One at each end of both the top and bottom arches of teeth. 

Why Do We Need Wisdom Teeth?

The simple answer is that we don’t. Tens of thousands of years ago, these teeth served a purpose. They not only helped us chew tougher meat and harder vegetables, but they also possibly acted as replacements for the other two sets of molars which might wear down or become infected by the time our ancient ancestors reached adulthood. 

Due to a gradual change in our diets coupled with developments in how we cook and prepare our food, our third molars have become redundant. Our jaws have shrunk with evolution. Eating softer food means our jaws no longer need the powerful chewing function that came with their size, but the late-emerging molars still exist. 

What Happens When Wisdom Teeth Start to Erupt?

Nowadays, when wisdom teeth start to erupt, there often isn’t enough space to accommodate them on your jaw. This means the teeth may remain below the surface, develop at problematic angles, or put pressure on your existing teeth. 

Signs that you’ve got an impacted wisdom tooth include: 

  • Red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums
  • Pain and discomfort in your jaw
  • Difficulty opening your mouth to chew
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • Headaches

When a wisdom tooth fails to erupt, it can cause considerable pain. An impacted wisdom tooth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, a soft-tissue infection called pericoronitis, a bacterial infection called cellulitis, cysts, or abscesses. 

These problems occur because when a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully appear above the gum line, cleaning becomes difficult. Food debris and plaque buildup not removed through brushing or flossing will lead to tooth decay and other problems. 

On the other hand, you may experience some discomfort as the teeth emerge, but if there’s sufficient space and they’re not pressing against the neighbouring teeth, your new molars might develop without problems, in which case; they can usually stay. 

When Do Wisdom Teeth Need Removing?

Sometimes, your wisdom teeth won’t cause any problems to your overall oral health and won’t damage your other teeth. In some instances, we may suggest using an antiseptic mouthwash or antibiotics first to remove bacteria from the area. This may prove effective at preventing complications. 

We will only need to remove impacted wisdom teeth that pose a risk of infection. 

If an impacted wisdom tooth is lodged sideways beneath the gum, this can pose a greater risk, as bacteria is more likely to get trapped in the gum tissue. 

How Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth Diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing pain and discomfort in the gums at the back of your mouth and you suspect you have issues with your wisdom teeth, make an appointment to check the problem out. 

We’ll use x-rays and visual checks to see whether the problem is related to your wisdom teeth. We’ll also assess whether they need extracting. 

Does Wisdom Tooth Extraction Hurt?

If you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted,  we’ll use a local anaesthetic to numb the area surrounding the teeth. Once the anaesthetic takes effect, you won’t feel any pain. 

Anaesthetic can take a while to wear off after your treatment. You should get someone to drive you home after your appointment and stay with you until the numb sensation disappears. 

While your mouth is still numb, don’t drink hot drinks or eat anything, as you may burn yourself or bite your tongue. 

How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

The extraction process will depend on if your wisdom teeth have emerged above the gum line and, if so, whether there is sufficient tooth showing. In such cases, we can simply pull the tooth out once your anaesthetic has numbed the treatment site. It won’t hurt, but you might feel some pressure. 

If the tooth is below the surface, a complex extraction is required. Here, access to the tooth is necessary, and the tooth itself may need to be broken down before it is extracted. 

Treating Impacted Wisdom Teeth in Kingston Upon Thames and Sutton

At Love Teeth, we’re here to help you maintain the best possible standards of oral health. If you’re concerned that you might have a problem with a wisdom tooth, it’s always best to check it out. 

We have well-equipped modern clinics in Sutton, Stonecot, Cheam, and Chessington ready to assess your impacted wisdom tooth. Call us today and schedule your appointment. 


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