Most patients at some stage have asked their dentist, Do I have wisdom teeth and do I need to have them removed?
Whether they’re experiencing discomfort and pain and suspect it’s related to wisdom teeth, or simply curious about what’s going on in their mouth, having a clear understanding about the status of your wisdom teeth is a good idea at any time.
In this blog, we cover everything you need to answer the questions Do I have wisdom teeth and do I need to have them removed?
Wisdom teeth: The basics
Wisdom teeth, also known as the third molar teeth, are the last teeth at the very back of the mouth. They are one of the most common teeth that may be absent so not everybody actually gets them.
Of those who do have wisdom teeth, most have four although the number varies for each person. Some people may have fewer than four, while others may even have more.
Wisdom teeth usually make their appearance around the late teens (say 17 years), however they can also appear as late as 25 years of age.
I have wisdom teeth so don’t I need to have them removed?
It’s commonly believed that anyone who has wisdom teeth must have them removed, however this isn’t true.
If there is sufficient space and the wisdom teeth have ‘erupted’ into the mouth in good alignment, there is no need to remove them. However, for some people, their wisdom teeth may not erupt in alignment. There are different reasons for this. It could be due to a lack of space, their angle, or the wisdom teeth have not erupted as they should. In dental terms, we call this impaction.
When wisdom teeth are impacted, it means either they failed to erupt or have erupted only partially. When this happens, none or only part of the tooth appears in the mouth and the rest remains under the gum.
What are the symptoms of wisdom teeth when they erupt or come through?
The symptoms a person experiences when wisdom teeth erupt vary greatly from no symptoms at all to mild or even severe pain.
In some cases facial swelling or infection can occur. In the worst cases, a person may even require hospitalisation.
Just as babies experience discomfort as their teeth come through, so too do adults with erupting wisdom teeth. Pain is typically worse when wisdom teeth break through the gum and can come from the gum or a general discomfort in the jaw bone around the tooth.
Some people may even feel their wisdom teeth keep coming through and then retreating below the gum again. Others feel their erupting wisdom teeth are pushing other teeth, leaving them with the feeling their teeth are ‘crowded’.
When wisdom teeth come through normally, any pain that’s experienced is usually temporary and mild, occurring only while the tooth is erupting. The good news is this pain should subside relatively quickly and never return.
If the pain or discomfort lasts a long time, is significant, or keeps recurring, this is an indicator there could be issues with the wisdom teeth. Your best course of action if this happens is to visit one of our dentists.
Wisdom teeth aren’t really serious are they?
While it’s far more the exception than the rule, it is still possible to die from wisdom tooth infections and complications.
In keeping with our ‘prevention is always better than cure’ approach, we recommend staying consistent with regular hygiene visits. That way your dentist or hygienist can keep track of how all your teeth are, including your wisdom teeth.
If you do come in to have your wisdom teeth checked, the first thing our dentists will do is examine your whole face before looking inside your mouth. Why? Because this is the ideal way to identify whether there is any potential, life-threatening swelling or infection.
Infections may occur if a wisdom tooth has erupted partially into the mouth. When this happens, it leaves a flap of gum over the tooth and a ‘pocket’ around the part of the tooth under the gum. This pocket is impossible to clean and is often the source of infection.
Another potential issue with wisdom teeth is decay simply because their location at the back of the mouth makes them hard to clean. Wisdom teeth can also damage neighbouring teeth, and although much less common, cysts and tumours can also form and may even go unnoticed (until they grow quite large) as they are frequently painless. Needless to say, it’s best to pick up cysts and tumours early and treat them while they are small.
Once we’ve examined your teeth, we will take x-rays to confirm the position and angle of the teeth in the jaw. X-rays also help us identify whether cysts, tumours and abscesses have developed as a result of your wisdom teeth.
When we have all the information, we will discuss the best course of action, which could be as straightforward as observing your teeth for a short time. It could also require a more involved treatment pathway, including removal of a number or all of your wisdom teeth.
If removal is the safest and most effective treatment, we will present the various options to you, including removal at the practice under local anaesthesia (that is, while you’re awake). In more extreme cases, we may refer you to a specialist oral surgeon who can sedate you or put you to sleep (general anaesthetic) to remove your wisdom teeth.
A final word on wisdom teeth
So, you may or may not have wisdom teeth. If you do, treatment may not be necessary, however, there is just one way to know – come and see us. That way you can enjoy the peace of mind your wisdom teeth aren’t causing damage to the jaw or other teeth, and that associated tumours or cysts aren’t developing. Remember, pre-emptive treatment is always better than a complex and (often) more expensive cure.
Wondering whether you might have issues with your wisdom teeth? The best way to put your mind at ease is with a visit to one of the lovely dentists at Define Dental. We will take the time to understand exactly what is happening with your wisdom teeth and provide clear, actionable advice to help you make informed and timely decisions about your oral health.
Remember, we are here to support you and your family on their dental journey, wherever you are. Book an appointment today on 5597 2100 and discover how our team is helping to define the way dental is done.