Wisdom teeth are increasingly becoming a modern-day coming of age symbol for young adults. Some people’s wisdom teeth will not cause them a single problem, whilst others will experience pain, discomfort, and possibly infection.
Where do wisdom teeth come-in and when?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come-in (hence the name) and are located at the back of the mouth, behind the second molars, on both sides of the upper and lower jaw. Often referred to as the ‘third molars’ by dentists, these teeth usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 21. Although wisdom teeth can sometimes come-in with no problems, most people will experience at least one impacted tooth.
Types of Impactions
Impacted wisdom teeth occur when the teeth are trapped beneath the gum and bone, and against the teeth in front. When your dentist assesses your wisdom teeth they will commonly describe the angle of your wisdom tooth’s impaction using the following:
- Mesial (mesio-angular) – the tooth is angled toward the front of the mouth, or forwards.
- Vertical – tooth has a relatively normal orientation
- Horizontal (traverse) – these are impactions where the tooth is lying on its side
- Distal (disto-angular) – this impaction describes a tooth with an angulation that is directed toward the rear of the mouth.
There are also three types of wisdom tooth impactions:
- Soft Tissue Impaction – the crown of the tooth penetrates through the bone but is still partially covered by the gum.
- Partial Bony Impaction – The tooth has erupted partially, but a section remains in the jawbone.
- Complete Bony Impaction – Occurs when the tooth is fully encased in the jawbone.
Signs and Symptoms
Wisdom teeth that experience impactions do not always show signs and symptoms (meaning regular dental appointments will be important to identify any problems early). Symptoms that do arise are predominately the result of the gum on top of the tooth becoming infected or swollen. This is termed ‘pericoronitis’.
Some of the common symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth include:
- Painful, swollen, &/or bleeding gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad Breath
- Headache &/or jaw ache
- An unpleasant taste when eating
- Stiffness of Jaw (Less common)
- Swollen Lymph nodes (Less Common)
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, or any other discomfort around your wisdom teeth, it is recommended you book a consult with your dentist to gain a greater understanding of the situation.
|Interesting fact: Leaving impacted wisdom teeth untreated can result in serious oral health problems including gum disease, tooth decay, or damage to other teeth due to infection and overcrowding..
Treating an impacted wisdom tooth usually involves removing the tooth.
Although this doesn’t sound like fun, this procedure may be performed using general or local anaesthesia depending on the individual case. Extraction of a tooth can take from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on their position.
Post-extraction, people can expect to experience some pain, swelling, and tenderness in the face and neck, whilst bruising is also a possibility.
Whilst there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to recovering, here are some recommendations for staying comfortable whilst healing:
- Eat lots of Soft foods – consuming only liquids and soft foods is highly recommended during your recovery period. Cold food is also recommended, as hot food can cause infection due to a possible breakdown of the blood clot in the socket. Recommended foods include jelly, custard, and yoghurt (remember to try and find low-sugar options).
- Ice Packs – to reduce try and reduce the swelling, and potentially help with any pain, use ice packs on any swollen or tender areas of the face and neck.
- Rinse, and repeat – Gently rinse the areas of extraction after every meal. This will assist in the prevention of infection.
- Rest, rest, and more rest – wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure and therefore your main objective following extraction is to rest and heal.
|Interesting fact: Whilst these are common recommendations for recovery, the most important thing to remember is to listen and follow your dentist’s instructions.
Getting your wisdom teeth can be a daunting prospect, but your local dentist is here to help. If you are concerned about your wisdom teeth, or think you are experiencing discomfort, schedule a consult with at your local Maven Dental Group practice.