Wisdom teeth

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It's thought that our ancestors needed wisdom teeth to help them chew a coarser diet. But nowadays they're an unnecessary part of the body.

Wisdom teeth can cause pain and discomfort when they're coming through, and anyone who's ever had toothache will know that it's hard to ignore pain in your mouth.

It can be quite worrying while wisdom teeth are growing - they're likely to feel strange and uncomfortable and can cause you problems when you're eating.

The good news is that most wisdom teeth only cause a bit of discomfort for a short while and don't need to be taken out.

If wisdom teeth do need to be taken out, just think how relieved you'll be afterwards when you know they'll never cause you problems again. Remember that it's only a minor operation and the pain relief you'll get during it means you won't feel a thing.

We've spoken to Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Foundation, about how to deal with wisdom teeth that are growing and causing discomfort.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are our last teeth to come through. They grow in the back of the mouth - 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom. They usually appear when we're between 17 and 25, although it can be a lot later or not at all.

Adults can get up to 32 teeth, but often our jaws are too small and we only have room for 28.

When do wisdom teeth cause problems?

Most of the time they don't! In many cases they just grow normally and might hurt a bit and maybe be a bit swollen while they're pushing through the gums - but this is only ever temporary.

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But sometimes they can become impacted, which is when the wisdom tooth gets stuck against the tooth in front. Wisdom teeth can also become infected easily because they're difficult to clean.

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