Back 15 December 2017

What are the Symptoms of Wisdom Teeth Coming in?

If you haven’t already gotten your wisdom teeth extracted, there are some signs you should watch out for. When wisdom teeth start to erupt, it’s important to deal with them sooner rather than later.


What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are four teeth tucked behind the second permanent molars. Often called an evolutionary relic, wisdom teeth frequently don’t do us any favours in the modern world. One theory is that early in our evolution we were eating unrefined foods (uncooked meats and plants) which were more abrasive than the diet we have today. These foods would wear our teeth down faster, creating narrower teeth which allowed space for wisdom teeth to erupt correctly. Think of a tooth as a cone shape - as the cone shortens, it's circumference becomes smaller.

Another theory is that our jaws were bigger because our chewing muscles were bigger because the foods eaten required more strength to chew. Think of a bodybuilder with big muscles - the underlying bone is bigger to help anchor the muscles in place, otherwise the big muscles would snap the bodybuilder's bone. So bigger muscles and bigger jaw bones make for more room for the wisdom teeth in early humans.  Nowadays humans enjoy a much softer diet, and consequently, there is less space for wisdom teeth and they often don't have enough room to erupt into the mouth properly. 

What are the Symptoms?

These are the signs to look out for around or behind the back tooth:

  • Red and inflamed gum 

  • Tender to the touch

  • Pus 

  • Swelling of the gum and soft tissues 

  • Swollen lymph glands

  • Visible signs of tooth erupting into the mouth


If your mouth is complaining, it’s time to go and see your dentist. Wisdom teeth erupt through the gums -  teething. Because food trapping and it's stagnation around the erupting or impacted (stuck) wisdom tooth occurs, it is common to get an infection which makes itself known through bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth. Also throbbing, swelling and a dull pressure in the mouth are common symptoms of wisdom tooth gum infection. This infection around a wisdom tooth is called pericoronitis. On a brighter note, wisdom teeth sometimes erupt with no symptoms.

What Problems Can Wisdom Teeth Cause?

Sometimes people don’t have enough room in their mouth, causing wisdom teeth to become stuck/impacted. This means that instead of coming straight up, they lie at an angle or on their side and sometimes press up against the tooth in front. Food trapping in this area creates a perfect storm for decay and cavity formation in the tooth in front which often dooms this tooth.

Some dentists postulate that the forward erupting force of an impacted wisdom tooth can cause the teeth further forward to overcrowd, which can lead to improper bite alignment. 


How to Extract Wisdom Teethintra-oral x-ray of impacted wisdom tooth

Many wisdom teeth can be removed as a routine procedure. When a wisdom tooth is stuck/impacted a more complicated extraction may be required. Do visit your dentist to have your wisdom teeth assessed. This will involve

  1. Having a look in your mouth at the problem area
  2. Taking an x-ray - either a small intr-oral x-ray or often an OPG/panorex x-ray
  3. Making a plan either to have the dentist remove the wisdom tooth or teeth or have a referral to an oral surgeon should the extraction look tricky.

OPG/panorex x-ray of impacted wisdom tooth

It is recommended that wisdom teeth be extracted at a younger age should this be required, however, they can be removed at any age. 

For wisdom teeth removal, tooth whitening, dentures and more, visit Milford Dentists.