Wisdom teeth are third molars, which usually appear at the back of the mouth between the ages of 16 and 24, although they can appear earlier or later than this.
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Occasionally, wisdom teeth can become impacted, which means they erupt through the gum at an angle which puts pressure on the neighbouring tooth. In some cases, the wisdom tooth is positioned at such an angle that it does not completely erupt through the gum, or does not break through at all.
Impaction of any kind can be painful and the pressure it puts on the teeth and jaws can lead to pain in other areas such as the head and neck. Wisdom teeth can also be difficult to reach with a toothbrush or floss, and so can collect pieces of food and bacteria which will lead to bad breath and tooth decay.
If your wisdom teeth are causing pain or your dentist thinks they may cause problems in the future, your dentist will recommend that they be extracted. If your dentist thinks you should have wisdom teeth extracted, he or she will explain the reasons why, and will take x-rays of your mouth to check the exact position of the teeth.
Extracting wisdom teeth can be quite a difficult procedure and anaesthesia will be required. Local anaesthetic is normally enough, so that only the area around the tooth is numbed and you are still awake.
If your dentist expects the extraction to be more difficult or painful, sedation will be recommended.
In some cases, general anaesthetic may be required, and this will mean the surgery would have to take place in a hospital. If this is the case your dentist will refer you to a dental specialist at the hospital.
There may be some slight discomfort for a few days after the extraction, and there is also likely to be some swelling. It is very important that you follow your dentist's advice about caring for your mouth after the extraction, to ensure it heals quickly and you avoid infection. It is best to relax, and not smoke or drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after the surgery. We will normally ask you to come back after a week or so, to check that everything is healing properly.