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Wisdom Teeth: what you need to know
27 April, 2024 by
Wisdom Teeth: what you need to know
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Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of molars to emerge in the human mouth. For many people, they can be a source of discomfort and confusion. In this blog, we'll delve into the fascinating world of wisdom teeth, exploring their purpose, common problems associated with them, and the best ways to manage them. 

Understanding Wisdom Teeth Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars located at the back of your mouth. Typically, adults have four wisdom teeth—two on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw. 

The Purpose of Wisdom Teeth

 Evolutionarily speaking, wisdom teeth served a purpose for our ancestors who had larger jaws and relied on a tougher diet. These extra molars helped with grinding down tough, coarse foods like roots, nuts, and raw meats. However, as our diets evolved and our jaws became smaller, there often isn't enough room for these additional teeth to emerge properly.

The Timing of Wisdom Teeth

 Wisdom teeth typically start emerging between the ages of 17 and 25. This period, known as the "age of wisdom," is when these molars begin to push through the gums. However, not everyone experiences issues with their wisdom teeth, and some individuals may not develop them at all.

Common Problems Associated with Wisdom Teeth

  1. Impaction: One of the most common issues with wisdom teeth is impaction, where the tooth becomes trapped beneath the gum line. This can lead to pain, swelling, and infection.

  2. Crowding: When there isn't enough space in the mouth for wisdom teeth to emerge properly, they can cause crowding, pushing against adjacent teeth and disrupting the alignment of the dental arch.

  3. Infection: Because wisdom teeth are harder to clean due to their location at the back of the mouth, they are more prone to decay and infection.

  4. Cysts and Tumors: In rare cases, wisdom teeth may lead to the development of cysts or tumors, which can cause damage to the surrounding teeth and bone.

Symptoms of Wisdom Teeth Issues

It's essential to recognize the signs of potential wisdom teeth problems. Symptoms may include 

  • Pain or tenderness in the back of the mouth

  • Swelling

  • Redness

  • Difficulty opening the mouth

  • Persistent bad breath

Regular dental check-ups can help monitor the development of wisdom teeth and address any emerging issues early on.

Managing Wisdom Teeth

  1. Monitoring: For some individuals, wisdom teeth may never cause any problems and can be left alone. Regular dental check-ups can help monitor their growth and detect any potential issues early on.

  2. Extraction/Surgical Removal: In cases where wisdom teeth are causing pain, crowding, or other complications, extraction/Surgical Removal may be recommended. This is a common dental procedure that involves removing the problematic teeth under local or general anaesthesia.

  3. Proper Oral Hygiene: Regardless of whether or not you have wisdom teeth, maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for preventing dental problems. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.

The Procedure of Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Wisdom teeth extraction/Surgical Removal is a routine dental procedure that is typically performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a dental surgeon. Before the extraction, the dentist will conduct a thorough complete blood examination, examination of your mouth and may take X-rays to assess the position of the wisdom teeth and the surrounding structures.

During the procedure, you will be given anaesthesia to ensure that you're comfortable and pain-free. The dentist will then carefully remove the wisdom teeth, sometimes needing to make an incision in the gum tissue to access the tooth. In some cases, the tooth may need to be sectioned into smaller pieces to facilitate removal. Once the teeth are extracted/Surgically Removed, the area will be stitched up, and you will be given instructions on how to care for the extraction site as it heals

Recovery and Aftercare 

Recovery from wisdom tooth extraction varies from person to person but typically takes about a week. During this time, it's essential to follow your dentist's instructions for post-operative care, which may include:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene

  • Taking medication as prescribed to manage discomfort

  • Applying ice packs to reduce swelling

  • Eating soft foods and avoiding hard, crunchy, or spicy foods that could irritate the extraction site

  • Avoiding strenuous physical activity and smoking, which can impede healing

  • Gently rinsing your mouth with saltwater after 24 hrs

  • Avoid vigorous brushing around the extraction site

Potential Complications

While wisdom tooth extraction is generally safe, complications can occur. These may include:

  • Infection at the extraction site

  • Dry socket, a painful condition that occurs when the blood clot that forms after extraction becomes dislodged or dissolves prematurely

  • Nerve damage, which can cause numbness or tingling in the lips, tongue, or chin

  • Damage to adjacent teeth or structures

  • Difficulty in mouth opening

It's essential to contact your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or other unusual symptoms after wisdom tooth extraction. Always ensure that your dentist is aware of your medications and other medical conditions.

Myths and Misconceptions

Wisdom teeth have garnered their fair share of myths and misconceptions over the years. Some common misconceptions include the belief that everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed or that the procedure is always painful and complicated. In reality, while extraction may be necessary for some individuals, others may never encounter issues with their wisdom teeth.


In conclusion, wisdom teeth are intriguing relics of our evolutionary past that can sometimes cause significant dental issues. While not everyone experiences problems with their wisdom teeth, those who do may require extraction or other forms of treatment to alleviate discomfort and prevent complications. By understanding the anatomy, evolution, common problems, and treatment options associated with wisdom teeth, individuals can make informed decisions about their dental health and well-being.

Dr Ashkar Mohammed N

Dental Surgeon

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