Wisdom Tooth Problems - Topic Overview
What 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 between ages 17 and 21-when a person is old enough to have gained some wisdom.
What causes problems with wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth that are healthy and in the right position usually don't cause problems. You may have a problem if any of the following occur:
- Your wisdom teeth break through your gums only partway because of a lack of space. This can cause a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. The flap can trap food and lead to a gum infection.
- They come in crooked or facing the wrong direction.
- Your jaw isn't large enough to give them room. Your wisdom teeth may get stuck (impacted) in your jaw and not be able to break through your gums.
- They are so far back in your mouth or crowded that you have trouble cleaning around them.
- A cyst forms. This can damage the bone or roots.
What are the symptoms?
If your wisdom teeth are causing problems, you may have symptoms such as:
- 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 your mouth.
- An infected swelling in the flap of gum tissue that has formed on top of an impacted tooth that has broken partway through the gum.
- Crowding of other teeth.
- Tooth decay or gum disease if there isn't enough room to properly clean your wisdom tooth and nearby teeth.
Most problems with wisdom teeth affect people between the ages of 15 and 25. People older than 30 usually don't have problems that require their wisdom teeth to be removed.
How are problems with wisdom teeth diagnosed?
Your dentist will check for signs of a wisdom tooth coming through your gum or crowding other teeth. You will have X-rays to find out if your wisdom teeth are causing problems now or are likely to cause problems in the future.