What are wisdom teeth and why do they need removing?

Wisdom teeth or ‘third molars’ are the last of your adult teeth to appear. They usually appear in your mouth in your late teens or early twenties. Most adults have four of them – two at the top and two at the bottom of your mouth. Some people develop problems with their wisdom teeth for a variety of reasons, most commonly the reason is that there isn’t enough space for them to fully erupt. This causes them to be ‘impacted’.

If a wisdom tooth is impacted, it can cause problems cleaning them which can lead to infection, or ‘pericoronitis’. They can also develop decay, suffer from cyst formation or sometimes cause decay in the next tooth. When you attend the clinic you will be informed of the most likely diagnosis regarding your wisdom teeth and the options available to you will be discussed.


What might the treatment involve?

Impacted wisdom teeth can be difficult to remove, which is the main reason that you will be referred to us. The majority of wisdom teeth can be removed under local anesthetic. It is rare for a general anaesthetic to be needed due to the complexity of the surgery. All options will be discussed with your surgeon at the consultation visit.

Once the area is numb the procedure will be carried out and all you will feel during this time is vibration and pressure. The procedure takes on average 30 minutes.


Is it painful?

The area around your tooth will be completely numb before treatment starts, so you shouldn’t feel any pain. When the anesthetic has worn off (usually 3-4 hours later), you may suffer from some pain, some swelling, some bruising around the area and possibly a stiff jaw. Some patients have quite severe swelling depending on their bodies own reaction and also depending on the complexity of the surgery. You will be given more advice on this at the surgical appointment. The swelling and pain can last up to a week.


Are there any risks?

No surgical procedure is free from risk. As mentioned above, pain and swelling is common and usually lasts up to a week. You may or may not be given antibiotics at the time or just after surgery, this is variable and can be discussed at your appointment.

This procedure does pose a risk of damage to two nerves that run underneath and to the side of the wisdom teeth. One of these nerves supplies the feeling to the teeth in the lower jaw, the side of the lip and the skin of the chin. The other nerve supplies the feeling to the tongue. These nerves commonly get bruised during surgery and this can lead to an altered sensation (like pins and needles or numbess) in these areas. There is a small risk that this can be permanent (usually less than 1%) and is much more likely to be temporary.


What happens after?

All patients are given written and verbal post operative instructions, please see patient information. There may be specific instructions to you as an individual which will be discussed with you.

Further information can be seen at the British Association of Oral Surgeons website