A dentist explains everything you need to know about your third molars.
By Dr Neil Banton
Wisdom teeth are the last four molars at the back of your mouth. They are so-called because they usually don’t emerge until your 20s when people are older and ‘wiser’, unlike the rest of your adult teeth which come through during childhood.
But, if they’re a sign or source of wisdom, why do some people need to have these teeth removed? Dr Neil Banton, Head of Clinical Services for Bupa Dental Care, gives us the lowdown on wisdom teeth and wisdom teeth removal:
What are wisdom teeth?
The formal name for wisdom teeth is third molars. They are the last four of the large grinding teeth (molars) at the back of your mouth.
Wisdom teeth usually emerge during the late teens or early twenties. Some people will never develop wisdom teeth and others will have all four, one in each corner of the mouth.
Why might I remove wisdom teeth?
As wisdom teeth are your last teeth to come through, there’s often not enough space for them to grow properly which means they can get partially stuck in your gums or grow at an angle – known as an impacted wisdom tooth.
As wisdom teeth are your last teeth to come through, there’s often not enough space for them.
Sometimes an impacted wisdom tooth can lead to problems such as swollen and sore gums, tooth decay and infection.
Antibiotics or antiseptic mouthwash may be used to treat these problems, but your dentist may recommend removing the tooth if these aren’t effective.
What happens during wisdom teeth removal?
Having wisdom teeth removed is one of the most common surgical procedures carried out in the UK. Before the procedure you’ll have an X-ray so your dentist can see the exact position of the tooth and work out the best way to remove it.
Having wisdom teeth removed is one of the most common surgical procedures carried out in the UK.
In most cases, it’s a straightforward procedure carried out at a dental practice under local anaesthesia, which means the pain will be completely blocked from your gums and you’ll stay awake while the tooth is removed. If your wisdom teeth are more challenging to remove, you may be referred to an oral surgeon and have the procedure done either in practice or in hospital under local anaesthetic, sedation or general anaesthesia, depending on what is right for you.
The dentist or oral surgeon will use special tools to widen the tooth socket and gradually ease your tooth out, cutting into the gum if necessary. If your gum is cut, you may need dissolving stitches to close the wound.
Wisdom teeth treatment tips
✔️ The main thing to remember – as with any teeth problems – is to go and see your dentist as soon as possible if your wisdom teeth are causing you any pain or discomfort.
✔️ If you do have wisdom teeth removed it’s important to follow the advice from your dentist or surgeon about after-care.
✔️ This will include keeping the wound clean.
✔️ Do not eating or drinking immediately after the procedure.
✔️ Stick to soft or liquid foods for a few days afterwards.