If you are experiencing pain or swelling in the back of your mouth, you may be getting your wisdom teeth. If you are looking for information and answers concerning wisdom teeth, this article provides an overview of the following questions:

  • When will my wisdom teeth appear?
  • How many wisdom teeth do I have?
  • What are the symptoms associated with getting wisdom teeth?
  • What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
  • Does is hurt to have wisdom teeth removed?
  • What does the process of wisdom teeth extraction involve?
  • What is the wisdom teeth removal recovery process?
wisdom teeth symptoms

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Overview of Tooth Development Including Wisdom Teeth

Typically, adults have 32 permanent teeth, 12 more teeth than a child’s original set of baby teeth. First molars often set in, or erupt, when a child is approximately six years old. Most adolescents, by age 12 to 14, have lost all of their baby teeth. Twelve-year molars (come in like the name suggests at about 12 years of age) are the second set of molars to appear right behind the first molars. And finally, the last teeth to erupt are the wisdom teeth. Sometimes referred to as third molars, wisdom teeth grow in behind the 12-year molars when a young adult is between the ages of 17 and 25 years old.

It is common for adults to develop four wisdom teeth. It is normal for one wisdom tooth to grow in each of the four quadrants: upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right corners of the mouth. Although four is the common number of wisdom teeth to develop, it is not uncommon for individuals to develop more or less than four wisdom teeth, and some people do not develop any at all.

Wisdom Teeth Symptoms

Many individuals that are experiencing erupting or impacted (stuck) wisdom teeth can experience a variety of symptoms. Swelling in the gums, cheeks, and face are typical signs that wisdom teeth need to be addressed. Throbbing pain and bleeding gums can also occur as part of the teeth attempting to cut through the surface of the gums. In addition, headaches, fever, sore throat, and jaw discomfort are also associated with growing wisdom teeth development. Moreover, swollen glands in the neck can be related to wisdom teeth coming in.

Not everybody has the same symptoms and if your wisdom teeth are infected the symptoms may be more drastic. If you are between the ages of 17 and 25 years old and you notice one or more of the symptoms previously listed you may need to schedule an appointment with a dentist to have your wisdom teeth examined.

Do I Have to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed

Though keeping your wisdom teeth is a possibility for some, most people opt or need to have them removed. The concern when wisdom teeth appear through the gums is that the mouth has limited space to hold the extra teeth without doing damage to your jaw, other teeth, or oral health. But if your wisdom teeth come in correctly, are healthy, and have enough space; there is no reason to remove them. Wisdom teeth can provide additional support for chewing food necessary for proper digestion.

If your dentist agrees that your wisdom teeth are healthy and your mouth can handle the extra teeth, special care and monitoring may be needed to ensure no problems, such as infection, arise later down the road. When you keep your wisdom teeth, dental hygiene and oral care such as regular brushing, flossing, and mouth rinses can reduce your risk of wisdom teeth infection as well as help keep all your teeth and mouth healthy.

Why Do I Have To Remove My Wisdom Teeth

If wisdom teeth do not have enough room to comfortably fit in the mouth, a variety of complications can occur. In an effort for the mouth to accommodate the extra teeth, shifting of all the other teeth may start to happen. Crowding can damage nearby teeth. Teeth that are to tightly together can trap food and prevent the ability to floss in between.

Wisdom teeth can become infected if not taken care of properly. Overcrowded teeth can be challenging to clean. Bacterial growth from poor hygiene can cause cavities, bad breath, gum disease, and other oral health issues.

If the wisdom tooth does not have sufficient room, it may only partially cut through the gum creating an opportunity for bacteria to cause an infection that could affect the jaw if left untreated. Wisdom teeth can be impacted under another tooth or lying at an angle under the gums. Cysts and tumors can result from wisdom teeth that are unable to erupt. Pain and swelling from wisdom teeth could prompt their extraction. If your wisdom teeth are infected they will need to be removed immediately.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Only an experienced dentist or oral surgeon can remove wisdom teeth. First, an x-ray of the wisdom teeth is taken and assessed to determine the complexity of the surgery. Anesthesia must be utilized during the extraction procedure to ensure pain is not felt during the process. Depending on the intricacy of your tooth extraction; local, general, or sedation anesthesia will need to be used during the procedure.  

After the x-rays are analyzed and the patient is comfortably numb or sedated, the oral surgeon or dentist will begin the extraction process by making a small incision in the gum to access the tooth. If the tooth is impacted in the bone the surgeon will need to cut and remove a portion of the bone that is blocking the tooth. The tooth and bone may be portioned into sections that are easier to remove in pieces. Once all the tooth, bone fragments, and debris are cleared from the gum tissue, the oral surgeon may need to stitch the wound closed. Gauze is then used to absorb any blood and help a clot to form.

Post Surgery Expectations

Following a wisdom tooth extraction there may be some bleeding, swelling, and possibly bruising. Avoid blood-thinning medicine like aspirin or herbal supplements like garlic and ginkgo biloba. Renew gauze as needed and hold an ice pack on your jaw to reduce swelling and pain for several days after surgery. Refrain from spitting or strenuous activity that may dislodge the blood clot in the socket. Over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen is often used to manage pain.

After having your wisdom teeth removed, drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic beverages. Eat only soft foods for the first 24 hours and refrain from smoking for the first 72 hours. Following surgery rinse your mouth with warm salt water but do not brush your teeth for 24 hours. When eating or drinking be gentle with your healing gums as much as possible.

Complications: When to Contact Your Oral Surgeon or Dentist

Generally, a follow-up appointment is not necessary when getting wisdom teeth extracted, but you may need to contact your dentist or oral surgeon if you have concerns. If you are having complications such as fever, hemorrhaging, pus, severe pain, numbness, excessive swelling, fever, difficulty breathing or swallowing reach out to your dentist’s office immediately; you may be at risk for infection or nerve damage. Your oral surgeon may need to prescribe an antibiotic to treat your symptoms.

Schedule an Appointment with Your Dentist

If you have signs that your wisdom teeth need attention, contact your dentist. While some dentists perform wisdom teeth extractions, others do not, but most likely you’ll need a referral. Dr. David Evans can assess your oral health needs and refer you to a surgeon that can successfully remove your wisdom teeth.