Wisdom teeth are the last molar (furthest back) teeth on each side of your lower and upper jaws.
Typically they are the last tooth to come through the gum, and may often not come through until you are in your early 20s. There is often not enough room in the mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth. Often this leads to impacted wisdom teeth which can lead to swelling and tenderness in the area.
It is usually best to remove wisdom teeth before the age of 20 as normally the roots are not fully established, making an easier extraction. If the wisdom tooth has erupted (come through the gum) then the tooth is typically removed under local anesthetic in the dental chair. If the wisdom tooth is impacted and embedded in the bone then surgery is normally required. An incision will be made in the gum to enable the tooth to be removed.
Note that normally some bone will need to be removed during this treatment option. After surgery, it is normal for there to be some swelling and pain for a few days. If the pain and swelling last for an extended period you should call your dentist for a consultation.
A complication associated with wisdom tooth extractions is what is known as a dry socket. A dry socket happens in the first five days after an extraction when the blood clot that was intentionally sealed in the pocket breaks down, or is dislodged. This then exposes the bone which can become infected.