Between the ages of 17 and 25, the majority of people have their final set of molars appear, called wisdom teeth. The name stems from the fact that having these teeth come in later in life gives the person time to learn and gain experiences.
The wisdom teeth are the furthest back in a person’s mouth and also referred to as the third molars. Usually a person has four of them; however there can be fewer or none at all.
There is usually not enough room for the wisdom teeth in a person’s mouth. They can be misaligned or not come in at all, so removal of these teeth is typically required.
If these molars are positioned incorrectly or angled improperly, they can squeeze other teeth out of place or cause damage to the other teeth, the jaw bone or nerves. By crowding adjacent teeth, there can be a higher risk of trapping plaque and greater susceptibility to decay.
If the wisdom teeth do not fully erupt, but are present and caught in the soft tissue under the gums or jawbone, they are considered “impacted”. If they are not removed, infection and abbesses can occur, as well as pain, stiffness in the jaw, swelling and general malaise and illness.
Due to the location of the wisdom teeth in a person’s mouth, they can be difficult to clean. If there is an issue with eruption and the teeth are partially covered, they can be at risk of debris accumulating and are at risk of possible infection occurring.
If the gum bed extends over the top of the wisdom tooth and forms a partial cover, it is called an operculum. Due to the challenge with cleaning these teeth, which are exacerbated by this situation, a needless syringe may be required to pressure wash the area in an attempt to remove any trapped particles and plaque.
When the operculum does not disappear or if the wisdom teeth do not come in straight, and are caught in an angle under the gum line, extraction is the solution. If a horizontal impaction is left intact, growing ninety degrees forwards, the tooth can grow into the roots of the second molars.
The most common situation is when the wisdom teeth are angled forwards, towards the front of the mouth, called a mesioangular impaction. If this is the case, the teeth located on the lower row, on the mandible, are easier to remove.
The maxilla holds the top teeth which are the easiest to remove if the wisdom teeth are angled backwards. This is called a distoangular impaction, and is a much rarer occurrence.
Symptoms such as redness, pain, and swelling, difficulty opening the jaw, bad odour, or general illness attributed to your wisdom teeth can progress into severe infection if left untreated. If you are suffering any of these warning signs, contact your dentist or health care provider to find the root cause.