Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to come through the gum. It usually occurs between ages 17 and 25, but sometimes happens many years later.
Often there is very little space at the back of the jaw for wisdom teeth to come through the gum easily. If there is not enough space for the wisdom teeth to erupt, the tooth will become wedged in (impacted).
Some impacted wisdom teeth remain under the gum and completely pain free. However, some can cause severe pain, infection, crowding and cysts.
Also, an impacted wisdom tooth may keep pushing against the molar next to it. This can cause a cavity where the wisdom tooth hits the other molar, often leading to serious damage in both teeth.
Furthermore, wisdom teeth are positioned at the back of the mouth, are usually difficult to keep clean. Food can become trapped between the wisdom tooth and its neighbour, leading to cavities in both teeth.
All impacted wisdom teeth, which show symptoms, will need to be extracted, but their extraction should be approached as an extraction like any other tooth. Depending on the shape of the teeth, and the shape of the jaw, sometimes extractions may have to be done by a specialist oral and maxillofacial surgeon.