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Wisdom teeth

Got a terrible aching feeling at the back of your mouth? It could be your wisdom teeth coming through to cause trouble. Here are the symptoms to look out for.

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Does this mean I'm technically 'wise' now?

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What are impacted wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth usually come through in your late teens or early twenties. Sometimes they drop in fine, but other times there’s not enough space in the jaw for them. Then it hurts. If your wisdom teeth grow at an angle and push on/get stuck against other teeth – this is called an ‘impacted wisdom tooth’. It affects almost three out of four people in their twenties so dentists are very good at sorting them out.

What are the symptoms of a wisdom tooth coming through?

Symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth i.e. a wisdom tooth that isn’t behaving, are:

  • Pain and tenderness in the gums and jaw;
  • Headaches;
  • Swelling or redness in the gums;
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth when you bite in the area of the wisdom teeth;
  • Bad breath;

In more rare cases, symptoms include swollen glands in the neck or problems opening your mouth.

When should I go to my dentist about my wisdom teeth?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s worth going to see your dentist. They’ll take x-rays to see what your teeth are up to, and remove them if necessary. For more information about finding an NHS dentist, read our article here.

What’s normal pain and what isn’t?

Even if your wisdom teeth aren’t impacted, they can still hurt when they come in. You’re effectively ‘teething’ and look how hard babies cry when they’re teething. So some slight pain and general feelings of unpleasantness are pretty normal.

Using a mouthwash of lukewarm, salty water can help (tasty stuff) when you notice your wisdom teeth coming through. You can also take painkillers such as paracetamol or Aspirin. It’s also important to be super vigilant about your brushing/flossing and mouthwashing when you’re teething, otherwise you can get an infection.

How do they remove wisdom teeth?

Impacted wisdom teeth are normally pulled out by your dentist under local anaesthetic, but sometimes general anaesthetic will be needed. Yes, that sounds horrible, but it’s actually one of the most common medical procedures done in this country. I.e. your dentist will know exactly what they’re doing and you’re unlikely to feel a thing.

The dentist will numb you up with an injection, before rocking your tooth back and forth and pulling it out. The injection stings a little, but other than that, all you’ll feel is a bit of pressure. Sometimes they need to cut through the gum, break the tooth into pieces and remove it. Self-dissolving stitches will sometimes be needed to close the gum.

How long does it take to recover?

It’s normal to have slight bleeding, swelling and pain afterwards, though this should calm down in a couple of days. Occasionally, an extraction can lead to more serious complications, such as dry socket. Try to look after yourself for the days after the procedure. Keep away from strenuous exercise, hot drinks, alcohol, and fags until your mouth feels normal again.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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