Wisdom teeth

Posted on 30 January 2014

Dr Fritz Hoogendijk, maxillofacial oral surgeon at Mediclinic Kloof, tells us more about wisdom teeth and the possible complications when removing them.

What are wisdom teeth and why are they called that?
Wisdom teeth are the third molar teeth found right at the back of the mouth. They are called wisdom teeth because they usually appear in the mouth around early adulthood. The association is that people are wiser and more mature when they get their wisdom teeth.

Why do they need to be removed?
Most wisdom teeth need to be extracted as there isn’t enough space for them to come through and so they become impacted. This means they are found in the bone with no space to allow them to fully erupt. Sometimes the wisdom teeth do erupt into the gum at the back of the mouth, but recurrent infections occur in the gum surrounding the tooth. This is called peri-coronitis and causes frequent and severe pain. It can lead to further infections and facial abscesses, cysts or pain, which is why they are removed.

What are the complications of wisdom teeth being removed?
Like any surgical procedure the possibility for complications exists. Fortunately the complication rate in younger patients is very low. The most common complication is infection post-operative. This happens in about two percent of patients and is managed with surgical drainage and rinsing of the area and antibiotic therapy. In relation to the upper teeth being removed, a communication may develop between the oral and sinus cavities. Called an oro-antral fistula, it will result in air passing from the nose to the mouth through the area where the tooth was removed or in fluids taken orally moving in the opposing direction. This can be closed with a surgical procedure and could be done immediately during the removal of the wisdom teeth, unless it’s only discovered after a few days and this will then imply a second surgical procedure.


The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Surgery

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