Frequently Asked Questions - Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are a set of four teeth that erupt into the back four corners of the mouth, behind the 12 year old molars. This usually occurs between the ages of 17 to 21.

No, some people are naturally missing one or more of their wisdom teeth.

Your dentist may advise you your wisdom teeth (or third molars) are impacted and that they need to be removed. What this means is that your wisdom teeth will not grow or erupt into a position that allows them to be functional teeth. Impaction may be due to soft tissues (i.e. gums), or hard tissues such as other teeth or bone. Teeth that become impacted are generally more likely to cause problems.

The common problems that can arise with impacted teeth are infections of the gum around the teeth, decay and resorption of adjacent functioning teeth, and gum disease around the molar teeth. Rare complications are cysts and tumours that can grow around impacted teeth. Some people feel that impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to crowding. For those who play contact sport, most fractured jaws occur at the site of impacted teeth, as they can create a point of weakness. Most footballers who have broken their jaws have not had their wisdom teeth removed.

Infections are by far the most common problem, and although they can respond to antibiotics, the only real way to treat it is to remove the source of the problem. A small number of people who do not treat these infections seriously, especially people with other health problems, can have severe, even life threatening complications with wisdom tooth infections.

Some people do elect to wait until they are having trouble with their wisdom teeth. The only trouble is, sometimes the damage is done without any warning. Some people leave their wisdom teeth until they are older than sixty or seventy years. Often they have other health problems at this age and are much slower to recover than teenagers who have the same operation. As a rule, your wisdom teeth will get more difficult to remove the older you are. If they are impacted, an ounce of early prevention is better than a ton of late cure.

All dentists are trained in removal of teeth, however sometimes you may need to be referred to a specialist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon who can remove your wisdom teeth for you.

Yes, as with any surgery, post operative pain, swelling, bruising and infection can occur. Other consequences of wisdom tooth removal may include, difficulty in opening the mouth, sore lips, and bleeding. There is a small risk with the extraction of lower wisdom teeth, of nerve damage that may cause numbness of the lip or tongue. Discuss the above risks and consequences of wisdom teeth surgery with your dentist and/or Oral and Maxilofacial Surgeon before having your wisdom teeth out.

No. When there is adequate room the wisdom teeth can erupt into the mouth in the correct position and function as a valuable asset or they may remain unerupted and cause no problems. However, this is usually not the case.

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