Adults can have up to 32 teeth. The wisdom teeth are the last to appear, right at the back of the mouth. They usually appear when you are between 17 and 25, although sometimes they appear many years later.
People often have jaws that are too small for all 32 teeth to fit – 28 is often the most we have room for. So if all the other teeth are present and healthy there may not be enough space for the wisdom teeth to come through properly.
If there is enough room they will usually come through into a useful position and cause no more problems than any other tooth.Often there will be some slight discomfort as they come through, but this will disappear once the tooth is fully in position.
If part of the wisdom tooth has appeared through the gum and part of it is still covered, the gum may become sore and perhaps swollen. This is called ‘pericoronitis’. Bacteria and bits of food can collect under the gum edge, and it will be difficult to clean the area properly.
This is a temporary problem that can be dealt with by using mouthwashes, special cleaning methods and possibly antibiotics. If the problem keeps coming back, it may be better to have the tooth removed.