Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the rear molars at the very back of the mouth. Most people have two wisdom teeth in their upper row and two in their lower row, though sometimes these teeth never emerge through the bone and into the mouth like the other teeth do. When the wisdom teeth don’t have sufficient room to develop or erupt normally, remaining entirely or partially beneath the bone or partly erupting at improper angles, they are considered impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted teeth might be painless and otherwise symptom free, but they’re more likely to cause discomfort, damage to the other teeth, and other dental problems. If the teeth have begun to erupt but don’t have room to complete the process, their exposed surfaces are also more vulnerable to the plaque and tartar that cause tooth decay and gum disease. When impacted wisdom teeth are painful or cause any of these other complications, your dentist or dental surgeon will extract the teeth and correct any complications, helping to keep the teeth and the oral cavity healthy for the long-term. Many dentists and oral surgeons also recommend removing impacted wisdom teeth that aren’t causing discomfort or other symptoms, eliminating the potential for future problems.

The issues that can arise when wisdom teeth are impacted are multiple and complex, and the symptoms are similarly varied. These symptoms might result from infection or from the pressure of crowding, and they vary from person to person and tooth to tooth. Infection in impacted wisdom teeth can cause the gums to become red and swollen, and they may feel tender or bleed, especially when brushing or flossing. If you notice a foul taste or smell in your mouth, this could also be a sign of infection in an impacted tooth. Some impacted wisdom teeth lead to pain and swelling in and around the jaw, and sometimes they can even interfere with a person’s ability to open their mouth. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your dentist. If symptoms are present near the rear wisdom teeth, they could indicate that your impacted wisdom teeth need to be extracted.

In addition to the medical concerns of infection, it’s common for impacted wisdom teeth to emerge only partly from the gums, making the exposed surfaces very difficult to clean. It’s also common for the impacted tooth to grow in the wrong direction when there isn’t room for it to erupt outward. Some impacted teeth grow toward the second molars that are next to them, while others are angled to grow toward the back of the mouth. Sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth grow horizontally, perpendicular to the other teeth, or they grow straight up and down but simply can’t grow through the gums. When a wisdom tooth presses into the adjacent molar, the risk of infection in that area increases, and the pressure can lead to misalignment of the teeth that requires orthodontic treatment. If only part of the wisdom tooth emerges, the portion that has erupted is more prone to tooth decay than the other teeth, as it is more susceptible to invasion by bacterial plaque and tartar and also harder to clean; these factors also increase the risk of gum disease in the area. Some impacted wisdom teeth develop into cysts if the biological sac that supports the tooth during its development fills with fluid, and cysts like these can cause permanent damage to the teeth, jaw, and nerves. In rare cases, cysts can also develop into tumors. While it’s impossible to affect the way your wisdom teeth grow, with regular dental checkups, your dentist can keep track of them, and together, you can make an informed decision about the fate of your own wisdom teeth.

Possible Wisdom Teeth Complications