Do I have impacted wisdom teeth?

We get our first permanent molars at 6 years of age and our second permanent molars at 12 years of age. Our third molars (wisdom teeth) arrive around 18-21 years of age. By this stage most of the space in our mouth has been taken up by other permanent teeth and our wisdom teeth commonly have little space to erupt into.

Why is this happening so commonly? Our ancestors didn’t have this problem as their diets were less refined and by age 18 the other teeth were worn sufficiently in width to allow space for the third molars to fit. Our modern diets are much less work on our dentition and we don’t achieve the same rate of wear, hence the space issue.

This space issue leads to the dreaded – impacted wisdom teeth scenario. This is a term used to describe teeth that are growing sideways, butting into the adjacent teeth or stuck because there is lack of space.

Symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth may include:

– pain and swelling of the gums behind the second molar

– swelling of the jaw

– difficulty opening the jaw (trismus)

– bad breath

-persistent bleeding gums in the posterior molar area

- increased crowding of the lower incisor teeth

– partially erupted third molar tooth that does not progress

– fever

– bad taste

– inflamed lymph nodes

– pus in the gums behind the last molar

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important that you seek a dentist’s  opinion. Your dentist will conduct a visual examination but will most likely require an OPG or full mouth X-ray to determine the position and shape of your wisdom teeth and their proximity to important structures in your mouth. Your dentist will then be able to advise you on your treatment options.

Failure to treat impacted wisdom teeth can lead to unnecessary pain and complications including decay, gum problems, cyst formation and damaged adjacent teeth.

I hope you have found my first post of the new year informative 


Dr Jess BDSc.

(The University of Melbourne) (Honours.)