Adults can have up to 32 teeth. The wisdom teeth are the last to appear, right at the back of the mouth. They usually appear when you are between 17 and 25, although sometimes they appear many years later.
People often have jaws that are too small for all 32 teeth to fit (28 is often the most we have room for) so, if all the other teeth are present and healthy there may not be enough space for the wisdom teeth to come through properly.
Often there will be some slight discomfort as they do come through, but this will disappear once the tooth is fully in position.
If there is not enough room, the wisdom tooth may try to come through, but will get stuck against the tooth in front of it. The wisdom tooth will be at an angle, and will be described by the dentist as ‘impacted’.
What problems should I be prepared for?
If part of the wisdom tooth has appeared through the gum and part of it is still covered, the gum may become sore and perhaps swollen. This is called ‘pericoronitis’. Bacteria and bits of food can collect under the gum edge, making it difficult to clean the area properly.
This is a temporary problem that can be dealt with by using mouthwashes, special cleaning methods and possibly antibiotics. If the problem keeps coming back, it may be better to have the tooth removed once we resume normal surgery in the coming months.
What can I do to help relieve the discomfort of wisdom teeth?
A mouthwash of medium-hot water with a teaspoonful of salt will help to reduce gum soreness and inflammation (check that it is not too hot before using it). Swish the salt water around the tooth, trying to get into the areas your toothbrush cannot reach. Do this several times a day.
An antibacterial mouthwash containing chlorhexidine (CORSODYL) can also reduce the inflammation, but do not use if you have an allergy. Pain-relieving tablets such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (NOTE IBUPROFEN MAY NOT BE ADVISED IN PATIENTS WHO HAVE SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS) can also be useful in the short term, but talk to your dental team if the pain continues. The tablets should always be swallowed and not placed on the area.
What if this does not help?
If the pain does not go away and there is a swelling under your chin/jaw/neck that you can see from outside or you find it difficult to open your mouth, you should contact your dentist.
If you feel there is any tightness of your airway/throat or difficulty swallowing then you MUST go STRAIGHT TO A+E in hospital.