Wisdom teeth are the last teeth at the end of your upper and lower gums.
Wisdom teeth usually grow through your gums in your late teens or early twenties. Sometimes wisdom teeth can cause pain as they grow through your gums. Sometimes there is not enough room in your mouth for them, so they come through at an angle rather than growing straight, putting pressure on the next tooth or the gum (impaction). They can also be difficult to clean, which in some cases may cause problems such as dental caries and tooth decay.
You may need to have your wisdom teeth removed if they cause problems, for example if they don’t come through properly, grow in a difficult position or cause infections.
Looking after yourself
If your wisdom teeth are coming through (erupting), there are things you can do to look after the area, and to reduce pain and the chance of an infection.
- It is very important to brush the area thoroughly with a small-headed toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, even if this is uncomfortable. This helps get rid of food and plaque.
- Warm salt water may help reduce pain. Mix one teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, then take a mouthful of the liquid and hold it in your mouth so it covers your affected tooth for two minutes, then spit it out. Do not swallow it. Repeat four times a day. If you are in pain, get advice from your pharmacist, doctor or dentist on pain relief medicines you can take, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or teething gels.
- Heat and cold packs may also help relieve pain.
If you think your tooth may be getting infected (for example, if you have severe pain or swelling), make an emergency appointment to see your dentist.
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Last reviewed: December 2019