'Wisdom Teeth' / 3rd Molars
Why do we have Wisdom Teeth?

Adults can have a maximum of 32 teeth.  The wisdom teeth are the last to come through, right at the back.  They usually
appear between the ages of 17 and 25, although sometimes they appear many years later.  Nowadays, people often have
jaws that are too small for all 32 teeth; 28 is often the most we have room for.  So, if all the teeth are present and healthy,
there may not be enough space for the
wisdom teeth to come through properly.

Do they always cause problems?

No.  If there is enough room they will usually come through into useful positions and cause no more problems than any other
tooth.  Often there will be some slight discomfort as they come through, but this is only temporary and will disappear once
the tooth is fully in position.

What is an impacted Wisdom Tooth?

If there is not enough room, the wisdom tooth may try to come through, but will get stuck against the tooth in front of it
impacted”).  The impacted wisdom tooth can be angled in a number of different ways and this can indicate how difficult
the tooth may be to remove.

What problems should I be prepared for?

If part of the wisdom tooth has appeared through the gum and part of it is still covered, the gum may become sore and
perhaps swollen.  Food particles and bacteria can collect under the gum edge and it will be difficult to clean effectively.  You
will be advised whether this is a temporary problem that can be dealt with by using mouthwashes and special cleaning
methods (and possibly
antibiotics) or whether it is better to have the tooth removed.

What can I do to help myself?

A hot saltwater mouthwash or an antiseptic mouthwash such as Corsodyl will help to reduce gum soreness and
inflammation, getting into areas your toothbrush cannot reach.  Painkillers, such as
Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can also be
useful in the short term.

What if these don't help?

If the pain doesn't go or if you find it difficult to open your mouth or get repeated infections around the crown of the tooth,
then it is likely that you will need medication or extraction.
Last Updated 1st February 2020
Are X-rays needed?

The tooth will need to be X-rayed to see the position of the tooth, its angulation / impaction and whether there is any
disease process present that compromises the
wisdom tooth or its adjacent teeth.

What are the main reasons for taking Wisdom Teeth out?

  • When there are repeated infections associated with the wisdom tooth

  • If the wisdom tooth is in the line of surgery.

The indications for
Wisdom Tooth / Teeth removal, in the UK (outside Scotland - Scotland uses the SIGN Guidelines) and in
NHS, is governed by the NICE Guidelines.

Are Wisdom Teeth difficult to take out?

It all depends on the position and shape of the roots.

You will be told how easy or difficult to remove each tooth is likely to be after having an X-ray.

Upper wisdom teeth are often more straightforward to remove than the lower ones, which are more likely to be impacted.

Very occasionally, there is a possibility of some
numbness of the lip ± tongue after the removal of a lower tooth (this can be
a permanent or temporary numbness).  You will be told if this is likely in your case.

A more comprehensive list of warnings can be found

Will it make any difference to my face or my mouth?

Removing wisdom teeth may produce some swelling for a few days but as soon as the area is healed, there will be no
difference to your face or appearance.

Your mouth will feel more comfortable and less crowded, especially if the teeth were impacted.

What should I expect after a Wisdom Tooth is extracted?

The amount of discomfort will depend on how easy the removal of the tooth was.

There is usually some swelling and discomfort for a few days afterwards and it is important to follow any advice you will be
given about mouthwashes etc, to help with the healing.

Painkillers, such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen will usually deal with any pain.

It is best to stay fairly quiet and relaxed for 24-hours afterwards to make sure there are no problems with bleeding.

There may be some stitches to help the gum heal over; these are dissolvable.

Useful Websites:

National Institute of Clinical Excellence Guidance on the Removal of Wisdom Teeth

Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network Management of Unerupted and Impacted Third Molar Teeth

Useful Articles:

JOMS 2004.  Clinical outcome of third molars in adults followed during 18 years

NHS Direct Best Treatments 2006 - Removing Wisdom Teeth

BAOMS Advice Regarding Wisdom Teeth

BMJ Clinical Evidence 2010 Impacted Wisdom Teeth

BJOMS 2011.  Technical Note.  A method for extraction of impacted upper 3rd molars

BDJ 2012.  The Effects of NICE Guidelines on the Management of 3rd Molar Teeth

JOMS 2012.  What Has Been the United Kingdom's Experience With Retention of Third Molars

Get Well Soon (RCS England) - Wisdom Teeth Extraction (2012)

JOMS 2013.  Predicting 3rd Molar Surgery Operative Time - A Validated Model

Cochrane Review 2014.  Review.  Surgical techniques for the removal of mandibular wisdom teeth

JADA 2014.  The Indications for Third-Molar Extractions

BDJ 2015.   Cost Effectiveness Modelling of a ‘Watchful Monitoring Strategy’ for Impacted Third Molars vs Prophylactic
Removal under GA - an Australian Perspective

J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2015.  Orthodontic Extraction of High-Risk Impacted Mandibular 3rd Molars in Close Proximity to the
Mandibular Canal - Systematic Review

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016.  Surgical Removal vs. Retention for the Management of Asymptomatic
Disease-Free Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Dental Update 2017.  Treatment Planning for Mandibular Third Molars

Rev Bras Odontol 2017.  Prophylactic Removal of Unerupted Asymptomatic Third molars - Is It Justifiable?

Austr Dental  J 2018.  The Contemporary Management of Third molars

Ortho Update 2018.  NICE Guidance on the Extraction of Wisdom Teeth − Time for a Rethink

EC Dental Science 2019.  Are Impacted Third Molars Always Necessary to be Removed - Part II

Medicina 2019.  How to Manage Impacted Third Molars - Germectomy or Delayed Removal.  A Systematic Literature

American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons.  Wisdom Teeth

Intech.  New Concepts in Impacted 3rd Molar Surgery