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Wisdom teeth: Do I have to remove mine?

    The quick answer to this question is not to remove them unless they pose a health risk. Some people experience no problems and provided they maintain good oral hygiene with regular dental check-ups, they can enjoy their extra set of molars.

    Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to erupt- usually between the ages of 17 and 21 years. They grow out of the gum at the very back of the mouth- two on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw on either side of the mouth.

    If there is sufficient space, the wisdom teeth usually come out into the correct position and serve their purpose in grinding and chewing food- just like the other molars.

    Since all the other permanent teeth are firmly in place within the mouth at that age, the emergence of these 4 extra teeth can cause crowding. This may result in wisdom teeth growing out of the gum at the wrong angle, only partially or not at all. If this is the scenario, then dentists refer to the teeth as being impacted.

    However, not all impacted wisdom teeth create problems. Sometimes, they lie in that position with no complications. Your dentist will keep an eye on them to ensure they remain harmless and you play your part by flossing and brushing regularly.

    As the teeth come out, there may be localised pain and discomfort, but this should subside as soon as the tooth is fully in position.

    Any tenderness of the area can be treated with mouthwashes to ensure all areas are bacteria-free and mild painkillers, like paracetamol will reduce pain and inflammation.

    If infection or complications keep recurring, your dentist may advise you to remove the impacted wisdom teeth.

    The possible ways in which the wisdom teeth can cause issues are:

    • Food can become trapped in the spaces formed by the impacted teeth. This may lead to tooth decay and cavities.
    • Bacteria can also enter into the gum through the area where the impacted tooth has partially erupted. This may lead to gum disease with pain and swelling in the area.
    • Teeth adjacent to the impacted wisdom teeth may become damaged and crowded as they get pushed.
    • Cysts or abscesses can form at the site of wisdom teeth impaction. If left untreated and in severe cases, tooth structure and jawbone can be destroyed.

    The approach your dentist chooses to extract your wisdom teeth will depend on the position of the tooth. An X-ray will determine the difficulty of extraction.

    The impacted tooth may be extracted in your dental practice with a local anaesthetic or if they are lying very deeply into the gum, an oral surgeon may be required with a general anaesthetic in a hospital setting.

    Recovery from the surgery is usually dependent on how easily the tooth was removed. There will be moderate pain and discomfort for which mild painkillers will be sufficient and these will be prescribed by your dentist. Any stitches you have will be removed by your dentist after about a week at your follow-up appointment.

    Author Bio: Dr. Nabil Mockbil received his DDS in 2001 from Umea University in Sweden, regarded as having the best dentist programme in Sweden for undergraduates. He’s now the founder of Swedish Dental Clinic in Dubai