Wisdom teeth generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, but we don’t all have space for them in our mouths! Years ago dentists were taught to extract them the moment they were spotted, but now we only extract when there is serious infection, decay or pain.
You may have heard of the wisdom teeth being impacted, in which case they won’t erupt fully, or even partially into the mouth. A vertical impaction is when a wisdom tooth is upright but there is just no space for it to erupt and there is bone above the tooth, and a horizontal impaction is when the tooth is lying at an angle, facing the tooth in front.
When a wisdom tooth erupts, it cuts through the gum and there is a flap of gum tissue that ends up collecting food and plaque and causing swelling, pain and a bad taste in the mouth. If the wisdom tooth erupts fully into the mouth, this is only temporary, but if the tooth is not able to erupt any further, the area can remain permanently swollen and sore. Rinse the area with warm salt water (half a cup of warm water and half a tsp of salt) a few times a day and keep the area as clean as possible. If the area swells up, it is often the upper wisdom tooth that bites into the gum at the bottom making it worse, so you can have that tooth extracted and your problem will be solved! Your upper wisdom tooth is further back than your lower one so if you were going to extract the lower, you would take the upper one out too, or it will have nothing to bite into and will over erupt and will bite into the lower gum.
We would extract the wisdoms if they were continuously causing infection in the gums, if they had large decay, if they caused food traps or pain in the jaw next to it.