Q Why do we have wisdom teeth?
A Adults can have up to 32 teeth. The wisdom teeth are
the last to come through, right at the back. They usually appear when
you are between 17 and 25, although sometimes they appear many years
Nowadays people often have jaws that are too small for all 32 teeth – 28
is often the most we have room for. So if all the other teeth are
present and healthy there may not be enough space for the wisdom teeth
to come through properly.
Q Do they always cause problems?
A No. If there is enough room they will usually come
through into a useful position and cause no more problems than any other
Often there will be some slight discomfort as they come through, but
this is only temporary and will disappear once the tooth is fully in
Q What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
A If there is not enough room, the wisdom tooth may try
to come through, but will get stuck against the tooth in front of it.
The wisdom tooth will be at an angle, and will be described by the
dentist as ‘impacted’.
Q What problems should I be prepared
A If part of the wisdom tooth has appeared through the
gum and part of it is still covered, the gum may become sore and perhaps
swollen. Food particles and bacteria can collect under the gum edge, and
it will be difficult to clean the area effectively.
Your dentist will tell you whether this is a temporary problem that can
be dealt with by using mouthwashes and special cleaning methods (and
possibly antibiotics), or whether it is better to have the tooth
Q What can I do to help myself?
A If your gums are sore and swollen, use a mouthwash of
medium hot water with a teaspoonful of salt. (Check that it is not too
hot before using it.) Swish the salt water around the tooth, trying to
get into the areas your toothbrush cannot reach. An antibacterial
mouthwash such as Corsodyl can also reduce the inflammation.
Pain-relieving tablets such as paracetamol or aspirin can also be useful
in the short term, but see your dentist if the pain continues.
Q But if it does not help?
A If the pain does not go away or if you find it
difficult to open your mouth, you should see a dentist. They will be
able to see the cause of the problem, and tell you what to do. It may
help to clean around the tooth very thoroughly, and the dentist may give
you a prescription for an antibiotic.
Q Are x-rays needed?
A The dentist will usually take x-rays to see the
position of the root, and to see whether there is room for the tooth to
come through into a useful position.
Q What are the main
reasons for taking wisdom teeth out?
When it is clear that the wisdom teeth will not be
able to come through into a useful position because there is not
enough room, and they are also causing some pain or discomfort.
If they have only partly come through and are
decayed – such teeth will often be more likely to decay as it will
be difficult to clean them as thoroughly as your other teeth.
If the wisdom tooth is causing a cleaning problem
and has no real use.
If the wisdom tooth starts to ‘over-grow’. This
often happens if the lower one has already been removed or is
impacted and cannot come through, and the upper one has no tooth to
bite against. The upper one will come down too far, looking for a
tooth to make contact with.
If they are painful.
Q Are wisdom teeth
difficult to take out?
A It all depends on the position and the shape of the
roots. Your dentist will tell you how easy or difficult each tooth will
be to remove after looking at the x-rays. Upper wisdom teeth are often
easier to remove than lower ones, which are more likely to be impacted.
Your dentist will say whether the tooth should be taken out at the
dental practice, or whether you should be referred to a specialist (oral
surgeon) at a hospital. Very occasionally there is a possibility of some
numbness of the lip after the removal of a lower tooth – your dentist
will tell you if it is possible in your case.
You will probably have either a local anaesthetic – as you would have
for a filling – or sedation. You could also have a general anaesthetic
(where you would be asleep), but this will usually be given only in a
Q Will it make any difference to my face or
A Taking wisdom teeth out may cause some swelling for a
few days. But as soon as the area is healed, there will be no difference
to your face or appearance. Your mouth will feel more comfortable and
less crowded, especially if the teeth were impacted.
Q What should I expect after a wisdom tooth
is taken out?
A The amount of discomfort will depend on how easy it
was to take the tooth out. There is usually some swelling and discomfort
for a few days afterwards, and it is important to follow any advice you
get about mouthwashes and so on, to help with the healing. Some people
also find homeopathic remedies help to reduce discomfort. Usual
painkillers such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen will usually deal
with any pain. It is best to stay fairly quiet and relaxed for 24 hours
afterwards to make sue there are no bleeding problems. There may be some
stitches to help the gum heal over. Your dentist will probably want to
see you again about a week later to check on the healing, and to remove
Q What does it cost?
A At hospital all treatment is free. At the dent