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Wisdom Teeth 101

Everything you need to know about your wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars, found at the very back of the mouth. When wisdom teeth are healthy and in the right position, they usually don’t cause problems. But when they're too crowded, or impacted, they don’t have enough room to emerge fully or normally. This is when problems can happen. Learn the signs and understand what to expect if your wisdom teeth become impacted.

Know the symptoms

If your wisdom teeth are causing problems, you may have symptoms like:

  • Pain or jaw stiffness near an impacted tooth
  • Pain or irritation from a tooth coming in at an awkward angle. You may feel rubbing against your cheek, tongue, or top or bottom of your mouth.
  • An infected swelling in the flap of gum tissue that can form on top of an impacted tooth
  • Crowding of other teeth
  • Tooth decay or gum disease, if there isn’t enough room to properly clean your wisdom tooth and nearby teeth

Prevention1

You can’t stop your wisdom teeth from becoming impacted. But be sure to get regular dental cleanings, check-ups, and x-rays. These help your dentist keep a close eye on the growth of your wisdom teeth and spot any issues before problems develop.

Treatment2

If your wisdom teeth are causing problems now or may cause problems in the future, your dentist will likely recommend that you have them removed, or (extracted). This can be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon. Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon about wisdom tooth removal procedures and any pre-surgery preparation and home care instructions. It’s very important to follow all post-surgery instructions to avoid complications, such as dry socket.

Ease your anxiety during surgery

Nobody likes having surgery, especially if they're already dealing with dental anxiety. But there are things you can do to calm your jitters:

  • Listen to music or watch a video
  • Bring a supportive family member or friend
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and imagery

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1 Impacted Wisdom Teeth, Mayo Clinic, March 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/basics/definition/con-20026676.

2 Wisdom Tooth Problems, Healthwise, October 2020, http://www.cigna.com/healthwellness/hw/medical-topics/wisdom-tooth-problems-hw172025.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult with your dentist for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations.