The two main problems with wisdom teeth are infection and impacted wisdom teeth. Neither of these should require emergency dental treatment if you visit the dentist regularly for check-ups, as the dentist will be able to monitor the growth of the wisdom teeth and address any problems early on. However, if you do not go to the dentist regularly, the pain caused by impacted or infected wisdom teeth may require you to have emergency treatment.
Wisdom teeth come through later than most of your adult teeth, generally during late teens or early twenties. They are renowned for causing problems, and many adults know how painful they can be. In some people, they never develop, while others can develop up to four wisdom teeth. In most people, they are not a problem, even when they become impacted, but in others they lead to increased risk of infection, pain and swelling and damage to the other teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth occur when there is not enough room in the jaw for them to grow. This means that the teeth often grow at odd angles which makes them difficult to clean and encourages infection and decay. As the teeth come through, they can cause jaw ache, swelling and tender gums, and put pressure on the neighbouring teeth. For this reason, many dentists recommend that you have impacted wisdom teeth surgically removed, to stop the pain and to prevent the risk of infection. Sometimes, having them removed is very simple, when the teeth have emerged into the gum. However, if the teeth are still partially trapped in the bone, the operation is more complicated. Wisdom teeth are removed under general anaesthetic.
Infected wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth are particularly susceptible to infection because of the odd angles they grow at. They are difficult to clean and can trap food which attracts bacteria, leading to infection and decay. If you have regular check-ups, infection should be spotted early, but if you ignore the signs of infection, eventually the pain may lead to emergency treatment being necessary. Signs of infection include pain, swelling, bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth. Common complaints include cavities, pericoronitis (an infection of the soft tissues), gum disease, cysts and tumours. Antibiotics can provide temporary relief, but otherwise a surgical solution is the best approach. Removing the wisdom teeth ensures that they will not cause further infection.