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Wisdom Tooth Problems - Topic Overview

dent_01.jpgWhat are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars, located at the very back of the mouth. They are called wisdom teeth because usually they come in when a person is between age 17 and 21 or older-old enough to have gained some "wisdom." Wisdom teeth that are healthy and properly positioned do not cause problems.

What causes problems with wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to grow over them where food can become trapped and a gum infection can develop. Wisdom teeth can also come in crooked or facing the wrong direction. Or, if your jaw is not large enough to give them room, wisdom teeth may become impacted and unable to break through your gums. You may have trouble properly cleaning around wisdom teeth because they are so far in the back of your mouth and may be crowded.

What are the symptoms?

Wisdom teeth often cause no symptoms. Symptoms that may mean your wisdom teeth need to be removed include:

  • Pain or jaw stiffness near an impacted tooth.
  • Pain or irritation from a tooth coming in at an awkward angle and rubbing against your cheek, tongue, or top or bottom of the mouth.
  • An infected swelling in the flap of gum tissue that has formed on top of an impacted tooth that has partially broken through the gum.
  • Crowding of other teeth.
  • Tooth decay or gum disease if there's not enough room to properly care for the wisdom tooth and surrounding teeth.

Most problems with wisdom teeth develop in people between the ages of 15 and 25. Few people older than 30 develop problems that require removal of their wisdom teeth.

How are problems with wisdom teeth diagnosed?

Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of a wisdom tooth coming through your gum or crowding other teeth. You will have X-rays to find out whether your wisdom teeth are causing problems now or are likely to cause problems in the future.

How are they treated?

The most common treatment for wisdom tooth problems is removal (extraction) of the tooth. Experts disagree about whether to remove a wisdom tooth that is not causing symptoms or problems. Oral surgeons generally agree that removing a wisdom tooth is easier in younger people (usually before age 20), when the tooth's roots and the jawbone are not completely developed. After age 20, the jawbone tends to get harder, and healing typically takes longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about wisdom tooth problems:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 02, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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