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Don't Let Your Wisdom Teeth Get In The Way Of Your Good Times

In 2013, champion golfer Rory McIlroy withdrew from the PGA’s Honda Classic tournament due in part to wisdom tooth pain. It’s not the first time someone will have wisdom tooth pain at an inconvenient time, and it won’t be the last. So what can you do to make sure wisdom teeth don’t interrupt your good times?

Well, first let’s look at what wisdom teeth are. They are a molar tooth. We call them third molars because they are the third one of the molar type teeth. (Your first molars come in around age 6, and your second molars around age 12.) The average age for wisdom teeth to come through your gums is age 18 or over. (That’s an average--I’ve seen them coming in as young as age 14, and as I’m sure you know, for some people, the wisdom teeth never come through the gums to take their place in the mouth.)

If you are one of the lucky few, you will have enough room for your wisdom teeth to fully erupt into your mouth, or you may be one of the few who has room for your wisdom teeth to come in most of the way. Even if they do, these teeth are often far back in your mouth and hard to brush and floss properly. Taking care of them is important because cavities or loss of the bone support around teeth are two common reasons for toothaches.

Most people don’t have room for wisdom teeth to come in completely and that leads to other problems that can cause pain:

As your teeth come into your mouth, a flap of gum tissue often lays over the chewing surface. If food becomes trapped under this flap of tissue, your gum swells a bit. As you chew, this swollen piece of gum tissue may get trapped between your upper and lower teeth, further traumatizing it. (Imagine biting your cheek each time you chew!) Because there is little time for the area to fully heal before you bite it again, it often becomes quite painful.

As your tooth comes through your gums, it creates an opening in the gum. This allows bacteria from your mouth to slide between your wisdom tooth and your gums and can create an abscess, or localized infection, around your tooth. This infection generates pain.

If your wisdom tooth is slanted toward the tooth in front of it or lying on its side, it may push against your second molar. The pressure from the wisdom tooth creates a hole in the other tooth. This hole often traps plaque and bacteria from the mouth and becomes a cavity. And as you read earlier, a large cavity is often the source of a toothache.

In most cases, antibiotics won’t cure these infections. They will help mask the symptoms, but it does take several days for the effects of the antibiotics to make themselves felt to the extent that the area becomes less painful. And if you’ve ever had a toothache, you know most pain medications don’t help much.

Your dentist or orthodontist should take dental x-rays to see where your wisdom teeth are located and how much room you have in your jaw. If they recommend that you have them taken out, follow through as soon as you can. Putting it off until they bother you makes a painful episode more likely--and after a certain age, recovering from wisdom tooth removal is a bit harder.

If you’re concerned about your wisdom teeth and do not have a dentist, I invite you to join my practice in Lorain, Ohio. Please call 440-960-1940.

*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.