Warning: Wisdom Teeth Ahead

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Wisdom tooth pain

You’ve been the picture of oral hygiene and a perfect dental patient your entire life.

You brush for the whole two minutes, you floss at least once every day, and your brilliantly-white smile receives frequent praise.

Despite your stellar oral hygiene efforts, your wisdom teeth have rebelled, causing you to experience localized pain and discomfort. Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

There are few dental issues that are more intrusive to your life than impacted wisdom teeth (where they don’t fully erupt into the mouth). While they may have been present for many years with no symptoms, changes in their condition can lead to pain, swelling, bleeding gums, and even a foul taste in your mouth. These are all signs that there is a potential problem with your wisdom teeth, and it’s time to consult a dental professional.

What You Need to Know

Wisdom tooth diagram

  • They are called “wisdom teeth” because they are developed as an adult, at an age we are becoming wiser (most of us, anyway).
  • Your wisdom teeth are your third set of molars. The first set appears around age 6, the second set around age 12, and this final set from ages 18-25.
  • Some people may never develop wisdom teeth (lucky ducks!), while most will have 1-4 teeth emerge. Less common are those that have more than four teeth develop.
  • Some individuals have wisdom teeth that develop but don’t erupt, either partially or fully. Partial eruptions can lead to food and particles being stuck in the gums, causing an infection.
  • While the occasional individual will have wisdom teeth that develop perfectly fine, it is estimated that about 85% of wisdom teeth will eventually need to be removed.
  • Most people experience pain from their wisdom teeth in cycles. Your pain may have temporarily left, but the problem still requires attention. Don’t delay treatment!
  • Left untreated, wisdom teeth can cause damage to adjacent teeth, cyst development, gum disease, and even tooth decay.

Caring for Wisdom Teeth

Xray of wisdom teeth

The last four of your standard set of 32 teeth don’t always have enough room. They can become impacted and be twisted, turned, or displaced as they try to emerge.

Signs and Symptoms

You may not experience all of these signs, but you will most likely encounter at least one of these issues if your wisdom teeth are impacted.

  • Pain: Impacted wisdom teeth are often extremely uncomfortable. Pain usually occurs on site, radiating from the back of your jaw.
  • Bleeding Gums: Your gums may be swollen and tender to the touch. Pressure (such as from brushing your teeth) may cause bleeding.
  • Swelling: The gums and jaw often swell when wisdom teeth are impacted. This often means that an infection is present.
  • Bad Taste: Impacted teeth can allow bacteria to become trapped in the folds of your gums. This can lead to cysts and infection that present as a bad taste or foul breath.

Treating Wisdom Teeth & What to Expect:

Removing Wisdom Teeth

Extraction is typically the best option for impacted teeth, as it prevents complications such as the associated infection, cysts, and the damage to adjacent teeth caused by impact. Even if you don’t have symptoms right now, we may recommend extraction to prevent future problems.

The Extraction Process  

Whatever the case, you’ll receive local anesthesia prior to extraction. We may also use a sedative or even general anesthesia if it is deemed appropriate. The details of removal vary from person to person. A fully erupted tooth can be removed quickly and easily while other, more complicated scenarios could require that the tooth be broken up. We figure out what exactly will be required in a preoperative examination.


It is common for swelling to occur after teeth have been extracted. It usually will peak at about 48 hours and recede over the next few days. You’ll likely use medication to control discomfort and ice packs to help the initial swelling. You’ll also be restricted to soft and/or cold foods initially, so break out the jello and the pudding!

Do you have more questions?

While every individual case is different, most of us will need to undergo treatment for troublesome wisdom teeth. Most common cases can be taken care of right in our office, though more serious operations may include a trusted dental surgeon.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth or just have more questions, I am here to help.

~Dr. Marea White