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Wisdom Teeth

What are impacted wisdom teeth?

Sometimes part or all of a wisdom tooth stays under the gum. This is usually not a problem. If something is stopping the tooth from coming through into a correct position, the tooth is said to be 'impacted'. Sometimes these impacted teeth cause pain or other problems.

Should I have my wisdom teeth taken out?

In the past people often had their wisdom teeth taken out if they had not come through properly even if they were not causing pain or problems. It was thought that these wisdom teeth would eventually cause problems so they were taken out 'just in case'. However, there is no good research evidence which says that removing wisdom teeth 'just in case' is a good idea.

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correct position of a wisdom tooth

impacted wisdom tooth

Dentists, surgeons and researchers have produced new guidelines giving advice on when wisdom teeth should be removed and when they should be left alone. These guidelines are based on the most up-to-date research evidence available. This leaflet tells you what these guidelines say.

Reasons for removing wisdom teeth

The following are the main reasons for having a wisdom tooth removed.

  • Infection in the gums around the wisdom tooth.
  • Decay in the wisdom tooth that cannot be treated by a filling.
  • If the wisdom tooth is causing damage to the tooth next to it.
  • If a cyst forms around the wisdom tooth.
  • Decay in the tooth next to the wisdom tooth which cannot be treated without removing the wisdom tooth.

There are other less common reasons for having a wisdom tooth removed. Your dentist or surgeon can discuss these with you.

Reasons for not taking wisdom teeth out

Not all wisdom teeth cause problems. If your wisdom teeth are not causing you constant or regular pain or problems, there is usually no need to have them out.

Wisdom teeth can be more difficult to remove than other teeth and there are risks associated with taking them out.

When wisdom teeth are coming through they might be sore for a short time. This is quite normal and is not usually a reason for having them removed.

Recent research evidence says that removing wisdom teeth will not stop your other teeth from being crowded.

What are the risks of having your wisdom teeth removed?

If you are going to have your wisdom teeth out, you will need an operation. All operations have risks and side effects.

Common side effects

After the operation:

  • many people experience some pain, swelling and stiffness of the jaw;
  • many people may find it difficult to eat;
  • some people may get some bruising on the face and neck; and
  • some people may need to take some time off work, school or physical activities.

Not everyone will have all these side effects. Most people will feel fine within a few days but sometimes it may take up to two weeks to fully recover.

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