Wisdom teeth, or ‘third molars’ are usually the last teeth to come through in our mouths, usually between the ages of 16-25.
What is their purpose?
It was thought they were used by our ancestors to grind down bones, or as replacement teeth after the first and second molars would wear down. Luckily our diets now no longer require us to chew bones and through evolution our mouths have become smaller, making it sometimes tricky for wisdom teeth to erupt, and when they do they may cause problems.
To remove or not to remove?
Due to the lack of space, sometimes wisdom teeth may be impacted. This mean that they are still partially buried under the gums, which can cause recurrent gum infections, known as pericoronitis. The symptoms you may experience include:
- Aching pain sometimes radiating to the ear
- Pain on biting in this area
- Reduced mouth opening
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Bad odour
This occurs due to food and debris becoming trapped under the flap of gum over the impacted wisdom tooth. Usually we can prevent this from happening by using different cleaning aids at home every night and by visiting your dentist or hygienist for regular six monthly cleans. In these cases we do not advocate the removal of wisdom teeth unless they present with pericoronitis on multiple occasions and they are difficult to maintain.
Tooth decay on neighbouring teeth is another complication which may arise from food impaction around this area. The decay here could if not caught early lead to the loss of these teeth. In these cases it may be advisable to remove the wisdom teeth sooner rather than later.
Will my erupting wisdom teeth cause my other teeth to move?
This is a common misconception that we hear all the time. There is however no evidence to suggest that an erupting wisdom tooth can lead to movement of front teeth. ‘Late lower incisor crowding’ is a phenomenon that happens as we get older, with or without wisdom teeth, where our front teeth begin to get closer together, but there is still no understanding of why this happens.
What is involved in their removal?
The oral surgeon will usually carry out an assessment, take some radiographs (x-rays) and advise you accordingly. There are some risks associated with extraction of wisdom teeth which is the reason why we do not routinely extract them. Your oral surgeon will advise you about these risks and whether it is safe to remove them.
The procedure is commonly carried out under local anaesthetic with minimal discomfort, however if you are quite nervous, it can also be done under conscious sedation.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us, or book an appointment for a consultation. Call (0207 637 8484) or email us ([email protected]) for assistance.