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Wisdom teeth

The last four adult teeth – called the ‘wisdom teeth’ – usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. However, some people’s jaws do not have sufficient room to accommodate the wisdom teeth comfortably.

If this is the case, the wisdom teeth come through at an angle and are described as ‘impacted’. Parts of them may still be below the gum line, leading to soreness and swelling of the gums and the risk of infection. This can be helped by using a mouthwash of medium hot salty water, an antibacterial mouthwash or – in the short term - painkillers like paracetamol.

If your wisdom teeth are causing persistent pain and discomfort, your dentist will usually take x-rays to check the exact position of the roots. You may be advised to have your wisdom teeth taken out if -

  • there is not enough room for them to come through properly  

  • they have become decayed

  • they are a problem to clean

  • they are starting to ‘overgrow’ (protrude too far)

  • they are painful.

Wisdom teeth can be taken out in the dentist’s practice under local anaesthetic or, if necessary, by an oral surgeon at a dental hospital (when a general anaesthetic may be given). After the procedure, there is usually some swelling and discomfort but this should only last a few days. Occasionally, stitches are needed.

For NHS patients, wisdom teeth removal is free if done in hospital. In the dentist’s practice it’s free if you are under 18 or exempt from NHS charges. Otherwise the cost depends on exactly what is involved. Make sure you discuss costs and payment methods with your dentist before embarking on treatment.