Wisdom teeth are the last of the teeth to appear in our mouths and, as there often isn’t much room at the point at which they appear, sometimes there can be issues. This is a problem that many people have – in fact wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common dental procedures in the UK. Wisdom teeth usually appear during the late teens and they grow through the gums at the back of the mouth, one in each corner. Problems that people experience with wisdom teeth range from those that grow through at the wrong angle, to those that only get partially through the gum and then get stuck.
Most of us would rather just let our bodies take their natural course but unfortunately with wisdom teeth the 28 other adult teeth already in the mouth sometimes make this impossible. When wisdom teeth get stuck they can attract a build up of food and bacteria, which in turn attracts plaque that can cause gum disease. Problems with wisdom teeth are often indicated by pain in the four corners of the mouth and anyone who starts to experience this should make an appointment to see a dentist. There’s no need to have wisdom teeth removed if they are not causing you any issues – there’s no benefit to this – however where there is discomfort or pain in the mouth it’s a good idea to mention this to your dentist.
If your dentist decides to remove your wisdom teeth then this can be done either by the dentist themselves, or by a surgeon at a local hospital. A local anesthetic is administered via injection and this will be used to numb the gum and the area around the wisdom tooth. This means that you won’t feel pain when the tooth is removed, although you might feel the sensation (this often feels like pressure as the tooth often needs to be moved backward and forward to widen the socket before it is taken out). Sometimes the tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces before it can be removed completely. Usually, wisdom tooth removal takes around 20 minutes per tooth. The procedure inevitably results in pain and swelling in the area where the tooth has been taken from – this may last for just three days or a couple of weeks.
The main risk with wisdom tooth removal is infection or ‘dry socket’ (a dull ache in the empty socket and jaw line, which may also be accompanied by a bad smell or taste). You can minimise the risks of both of these by following aftercare instructions and not smoking. The risk of nerve damage is low – if you experience it, this will feel like numbness and tingling on teeth and gums, as well as tongue, chin and lower lip. This is usually temporary but if the feeling persists after two weeks then it’s a good idea to revisit your dentist for advice.