Wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, are the last set of molar teeth an adult will get, and they normally appear in your late teens or early twenties (if at all). Most adults will have two at the top and two on the bottom, on either side of the mouth. These teeth are frequently a nuisance to patients, as it is not often that your wisdom teeth fit comfortably in your mouth. A more common complaint is that they are positioned uncomfortably against other teeth or at an awkward angle to your jaw bone.
In some cases, your wisdom teeth may only partially erupt from the gum – this could be due to lack of space in your mouth and it means they can become twisted or displaced – these are impacted wisdom teeth, and sadly there’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening.
Know the signs of impacted wisdom teeth and possible courses of action if they are causing you discomfort by reading our latest post below.
If your wisdom teeth are impacted, your gums can take the brunt of it. Often, gums around the tooth will be red, swollen, tender and even bleeding. Because impacted wisdom teeth are only ever partially erupted, this can lead to food and bacteria growth in the pocket of the gums around the tooth which causes them to become inflamed.
Cleaning the gums thoroughly around your wisdom teeth is so important to reduce the risk of this happening and leading to further pain from tooth cavities and decay. The gum pain can also spread to other teeth in your mouth as the wisdom teeth shift and cause pressure on the other teeth.
Your dentist will normally take X-rays at various stages over the years to monitor your teeth more closely and get a clearer picture of what’s happening beneath the gum line. Your dentist will clearly see using the X-rays how your wisdom teeth are positioned and predict whether you might have some problems with them in the future.
With impacted wisdom teeth, it can be common to suffer from jaw pain or stiffness, or to even feel ear ache along that side of your face. Some patients also report a swelling of the jaw when they have wisdom tooth trouble. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist who can check for signs of infection which could be causing the pain.
Because of their positioning, alignment and awkward place at the back of your mouth, wisdom teeth can sometimes be difficult to keep clean, and in rare cases this can lead to a disease called pericoronitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tooth. This can also lead to a bad taste or smell in your mouth, which can be very uncomfortable.
Talk to your dentist if you feel like you might have a gum infection – sometimes a thorough cleaning is enough to get rid of the bacteria, and in other more severe cases a dose of antibiotics may be required to kill the infection. You can also treat it at home with salt water rinses to keep the area clean and disinfected.
The best way to prevent infections around your impacted wisdom teeth is to keep up with your brushing, flossing and rinsing routine, and also schedule twice annual check ups with your dentist for cleaning and monitoring of progress. If the infections continue to return, it may be necessary to have surgery to remove your wisdom teeth altogether.