The third set of molars (i.e. wisdom teeth) are located at the back of the mouth and often appear in people’s late teens or early twenties. Most people have four wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth are usually the last teeth to appear, and in many cases the jaw is too small for the wisdom teeth to come through (erupt). If this is the case, the teeth can come in crooked, misaligned (inward or outward), or they can fail to fully grow through the gum (this is called tooth impaction). Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain, but if you don’t have pain it may be difficult to know if you have impacted wisdom teeth.
When wisdom teeth only partially come through there may be nooks and crevices in which bacteria can settle. Wisdom teeth can also be hard to reach and are therefore more difficult to clean, which can lead to infection, tooth decay and gum disease.
What should I do when I have troublesome wisdom teeth?
The position of your wisdom teeth should be monitored routinely by your dentist, who can do this by taking an X-ray. If you need further evaluation, the dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon.
The dentist or surgeon may make the recommendation to have your wisdom teeth removed before serious problems develop. Removal is easier if you are younger, when the bone is less dense and your wisdom teeth roots are not yet fully developed.
If you have any of the following symptoms you may need to have your wisdom teeth removed:
- Red, bleeding or swollen gums at the back of the mouth
- Pain around the back of the mouth along the jaw line
- Bad breath that will not go away, or a lasting bad taste in your moth
- Headaches coming from the temporomandibular joint (the jawbone)