Impacted wisdom teeth - to remove or not to remove

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What are impacted wisdom teeth?

Tooth development takes place in stages. Wisdom teeth begin forming around your tenth birthday and usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. They are the third and last set of large grinding teeth called molars on your tooth development timeline. Wisdom teeth are located right at the back of your mouth at the end of your upper and lower gums. Some people never get wisdom teeth, but most people do and this can vary from one to four.

An impacted wisdom tooth refers to a wisdom tooth that has failed to fully erupt and grow properly. It can grow in the wrong direction, come out sideways or at an angle, only partially emerge or remain hidden within your gum. Impacted wisdom teeth are very common.


What causes impacted wisdom teeth?

As wisdom teeth are the last molars to enter your mouth there is often not enough space for them to come through fully and grow properly. The tooth's eruption path may be obstructed by other teeth and they may grow at a wrong angle or only partially emerge.


Do all impacted wisdom teeth need removing?

If you have impacted wisdom teeth that are not causing you any problems, then they don’t need to be removed. Your dentist or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon will check your teeth and advise you if they would recommend an impacted tooth’s removal.


Why are impacted wisdom teeth removed?

Sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain and dental problems. Bacteria and food can get trapped around impacted wisdom teeth and cause plaque to build up. This can cause a variety of problems including:

- Infection of the soft tissue surrounding your impacted tooth (pericoronitis).

- Bacterial infection in the cheek, tongue or throat (cellulitis).

- Tender, painful, red, bleeding or swollen gums. Plaque releases toxins and can lead to gum disease.

- The collection of pus in your wisdom tooth or surrounding area and may cause an abscess due to a bacterial infection.

- Jaw pain and swelling.

- Tooth decay caused by plaque build-up.

- Damage to neighbouring teeth.

- Bad breath.

- An unpleasant taste in your mouth.

- Difficulty opening your mouth.

- Fluid filled sacs (cysts) forming.

If you are experiencing any of these problems or your dentist anticipates that your impacted wisdom tooth could lead to these problems, then they may recommend the tooth’s removal. However, these problems are often treated with antibiotics and antiseptic mouthwash and wisdom tooth removal will usually only be recommended if other treatment options haven’t been successful.


How are impacted wisdom teeth removed?

The removal of impacted wisdom teeth is one of the most common procedures carried out in the UK.

Your dentist may be able to remove your wisdom teeth or they may refer you to an oral surgeon. The procedure is usually performed as a day case operation under local anaesthetic.

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