How do I know if I have got my wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, as it’s popularly known, is the last of the three molar teeth (or the grinders at the back) that an adult has in each quadrant of their mouths. Unlike the other teeth, which have already taken their places in the mouth by the beginning of adolescence, the third molar only erupts after the age of 17. A person is generally at a certain level of maturity by the time he gets his third molars, and that’s how the term ‘wisdom’ teeth got coined. Some patients mistakenly believe that this tooth is directly linked with their levels of wisdom and do not permit their dentist to remove them, even in case of an infection. This is a myth and if you have an infection, you need to get treatment at the earliest to keep it from spreading to the surrounding areas.

Usually there are four third molars, located at each corner of your mouth (two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw). But for some, these teeth never erupt into the mouth.  This could be due to lack of sufficient space for the tooth to erupt, or lack of the force required for eruption. They may remain embedded or impacted in the jaw, or it may partially erupt. The eruption of the third molars is almost always accompanied by pain in the jaw, mostly at the corner regions of the mouth.

At times, though the tooth is in a favorable position for erupting, it remains covered by the gums. This may lead to pain due to impinging of the tissues by opposing teeth during chewing. In such cases, surgical removal of the covering tissues should give relief. If the tooth is not in position, that is, it is lying flat, or is inclined in a way that eruption is not possible, your dentist may recommend surgical removal of the tooth, especially if there is an associated infection.

When the tooth has erupted only partly, there are chances of food getting trapped in the area between the tooth and the overlying gums. This can lead to an infection of the surrounding gums and pain. Difficulty in opening the mouth, along with the symptoms of infection, like enlarged lymph nodes, fever, swelling and redness are present commonly in such cases.

Whenever the partly erupted third molar is impinging on, or blocked by the second molar, there are chances of the second molar getting affected as well, since the area in between the two teeth is difficult to clean. Here, it is advisable to get the third molar removed, and if a cavity has formed on the second molar, it should be filled by the dentist.

Dentists take radiographs to assess the real situation of your third molars, but you can take a look in the mirror for starters, to analyze if it really is your third molar causing the pain. Look for the above symptoms. If the third molar is the culprit, do not delay your appointment with the dentist. Make sure you mention that you suspect an infection when you make your appointment  itself, so that you can start your antibiotics at the earliest, before the infection spreads.

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