Wisdom teeth have nothing to do, really, with having or lacking wisdom.
Indeed, their very existence would seem to fly in the face of wisdom since many people don't have enough room in their mouths for these teeth to grow in properly.
Your third molars show up later in life than your other teeth. They will usually try to emerge between 17 and 21 years of age.
You'll notice I said, "try to emerge". For many people wisdom teeth become impacted, which means they only succeed in coming partially throug the gums. In some cases they remain under the gums.
A tooth can be impacted because of lack of space, either because it begins coming in at an angle that causes it to be blocked by another tooth or teeth, or because there just isn't enough room, no matter what the angle.
Some impacted wisdom teeth stay dormant and never cause a problem. Others though may result in pericoronitis,which can cause pain, swelling and tenderness, as debris, food or plaque is trapped in the surrounding tissues.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons said on their AAOMS.org website that nine people out of ten have one or more impacted wisdom teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth may cause damage to surrounding teeth. This area of the mouth can be attractive to bacteria due to the fact that it's so hard to get in there to clean properly.
Gum disease can result, possibly leading to illness and infections affecting the rest of the body. Sometimes the gum area around the wisdom tooth will become the site of a cyst or tumor filled with fluid which can ultimately hollow out the jaw and damage nerves and teeth.
An impacted wisdom tooth can leave you with tenderness or pain in the jaw or gums, or headaches. Your gums may become red or swollen in the area of the affected tooth.
The lymph nodes in your neck may swell and become sore. It may be hard to open your mouth. You may contend with bad breath, or things may taste bad because of the impacted tooth.
An impacted tooth that is not dealt with could lead to infection or abscess in the tooth or your gums. Plaque can be trapped and proliferate between your teeth and your gums. Your teeth may eventually be moved out of alignment due to crowding.
If you are having problems with your wisdom teeth, your first stop should be at your dentist's office.
Your dentist will take X-rays to determine what the status of your wisdom tooth is. This will indicate whether the tooth has emerged fully or partially, or not at all. It will also show whether the tooth is pressing on other teeth.
Over-the-counter medications for pain relief may be recommended by your dentist. Dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of water then gargling may ease the pain.
If your tooth needs to be pulled, this may be performed by your dentist or by an oral surgeon, depending on the situation in your mouth. An infected tooth may require a prescription for an antibiotic.
What does it mean to have impacted wisdom teeth?. Kidshealth.org. Retrieved Oct. 21, 2012.
Wisdom Teeth. AAOMS.org. Retrieved Oct. 21, 2012.
Impacted tooth.NLM.NIH.gov. Retrieved Oct. 21, 2012.
Reviewed October 22, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN