Wisdom teeth are third molars that come through around the age of 17-25, “the age of wisdom”. It is the last tooth in the arch and most of the time, there is lack of space for it to come through completely. Wisdom teeth do not need to be removed if it is straight and come through into a normal position without pushing against other teeth. In other situations, the wisdom teeth tend to cause gum swelling, infection and decay on the tooth at the front.
The common reason wisdom teeth need to be removed:
- Impacted wisdom teeth: Impaction is the term that describes failure of tooth eruption into normal functional position. There is usually lack of space for wisdom teeth to come through completely and not uncommonly, the wisdom teeth can grow at an angle so that it is stuck against the tooth at front.
- Recurrent gum infection and swelling around the wisdom tooth: When the wisdom tooth partially come through and partially stuck underneath the gum, food and bacteria can trap at the space between the tooth and gum, causing gum swelling and infection. The infection is called pericoronitis, simply means inflammation of the tissue around the tooth. The infection usually settles down with antibiotics, mouthrinse and soft diet. However, if the symptoms persist and recur, it is recommended to have wisdom teeth removed.
- Decay of the wisdom tooth: it is common to develop decay on the wisdom tooth because it is difficult to reach toothbrush all the way at the back of the mouth. Improper clean equals to decay, just a matter of time.
- Damage of the tooth at the front: For wisdom tooth that is impacted and comes at an angle, it can push against the tooth at front and cause erosion of the adjacent tooth. Not uncommonly, we see toothache and infection in these situations and we have to extract wisdom tooth and the tooth at front together.
In most cases, wisdom teeth can be removed in dental chair with local anaesthesia. For impacted wisdom teeth, small surgical procedure is required. After the tooth is removed, one or two stitches are required. There will be no pain during the procedure as anaesthetic solution is administered before the procedure. Within one or two days after the procedure, there might be small bruising in the mouth, which is quickly settled down by prescribed antibiotics.