Wisdom teeth often start erupting (growing into the mouth) – and causing problems – in the late teens early twenties. However, realistically, they can present themselves at any stage of our lives.
Some of the lucky ones have their wisdom teeth erupt with no problems and frequently don’t even know they are there. Even luckier people do not ever form wisdom teeth. This is thought to be due to genetics with wisdom teeth being a common tooth that does not develop.
Why do they not fit in our mouths?
There are two main schools of thought on this. The first is genetics – if your parents have had wisdom teeth out, then there is a very good chance that you will also need them out. The second idea is evolution – that our jaws are getting smaller and there is just less room for our wisdom teeth.
How do I know if I’m getting wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the very back teeth, we call them the 8’s. If you count your teeth from front to back and there are eight teeth then you have wisdom teeth.
In some cases, the mouth does not have enough room for the emergence of the wisdom teeth. When this happens the gum can get quite tender, swell over this area and can be very painful when biting. Your lymph glands may become tender under your jaw and in some cases you could have problems opening your mouth fully. Often they play up when you are stressed (exam times are classic wisdom teeth time) or run down with a cold or flu.
If this is recurring it is time to visit the dentist. Chances are you don’t have enough room for the wisdom tooth and the wisdom tooth may be impacted.
What happens if I leave it?
Leaving an impacted or unerupted wisdom tooth can cause long term problems. There is a chance that you have a chronic infection that your body is trying to fight which is not good for your health.
If the tooth has impacted against another tooth then it can damage this tooth. Generally it is impossible for you to clean around an erupting wisdom tooth due to the gum flap being partially over it. This means it can decay both itself and the tooth in front. Unfortunately we sometime need to take out both wisdom tooth and the tooth in front, (the 7s) due to damage caused by the wisdom tooth.
Cysts and tumours can also grow around wisdom teeth that are left.
If you play contact sports consider having your wisdom teeth extracted as they make a weak point in the jaw that can fracture with a big hit.
So what do I do if I think I have wisdom teeth?
Come and see us. We can take a digital image (like the one shown above) that will tell us if there is enough room for your wisdom tooth or if it is going to need extracting. We can reduce any infection and make plans for an extraction if required.