Wisdom teeth are known to be problematic. Even with proper care and attention, their placement in the mouth makes them challenging to reach and more susceptible to decay.
This gets more complicated when these teeth are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth lead to serious health conditions that can affect the entire dental arch.
Visiting your dentist addresses these issues, and enables them to monitor any developing problems so they can be dealt with early on. If you have concerns about your wisdom teeth, it’s important to consult a professional.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Our mouth goes through many changes as we grow from an infant to an adult. Baby teeth emerge from the gums, only to be replaced with permanent adult teeth and second molars.
This transition happens over time, so by about the age of 12-13 you should have all your adult teeth. The final oral development typically occurs between the ages of 17 and 21 when you get your third set of molars, your wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth have this name because they represent maturity. They are placed at the very back of your mouth at the end of both sets of dental arches. However, as they are technically vestigial body parts, there is often not enough room for these molars in your jaw. This overcrowding can impact adjacent teeth and inhibit the natural eruption of your wisdom teeth through the gum line.
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause many significant issues. Even when they successfully emerge, these third molars are prone to decay because of their positioning in the mouth, but they bring a host of other problems when they’re impacted.
A partial impaction can trap food and bacteria, leading to extensive decay. The interdental space between the wisdom teeth and adjacent molars are also difficult to clean properly, increasing the risk of decay.
When a wisdom tooth erupts at an angle and pushes into the adjacent teeth, the entire dental arch can shift from its normal position.
The impacted tooth can cause a bacterial infection that leads to a pocket of pus forming at the tooth root. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can have life-threatening implications.
If the wisdom tooth doesn’t have enough room and only partially emerges, it may create a flap of gum tissue at the back of the dental arch. This flap can fill with bacteria and food debris, leading to infection.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth gets stuck underneath the surface of your gum, it’s considered impacted. In this situation, the tooth can grow at an incorrect angle and cause further problems.
The only way to know for sure is to visit the dentist for an X-ray. This will help the dentist see what’s occurring below the gum line. Some impacted wisdom teeth partially emerge through the gum line, but even though they seem to be emerging the only way to determine what’s happening is through an X-ray.
There are four types of impaction: horizontal, vertical, mesial, and distal. These classifications refer to the angle of the wisdom tooth as it grows in the gum.
Horizontal impaction occurs when the wisdom tooth grows horizontally in the gum. This is the most painful type of impaction as the tooth pushes directly into the next tooth, and if untreated can damage the surrounding teeth.
Vertical impaction does not always need treatment. Since the tooth is nearly in the correct positioning there is the chance it will still emerge without problems. However, if removal is required, the dentist can extract a vertical impaction under a local anaesthetic.
Mesial impaction is the most common type of impaction and most often results in partial eruption. The tooth grows at an angle toward the other teeth and front of the mouth.
Distal impactions are the least common. The wisdom tooth angles toward the back of the mouth. Your dentist will likely wait to assess whether this tooth should be removed, depending on whether you exhibit any adverse symptoms of impaction.
At Available Dental Care, we use sophisticated technology to assess what kind of impaction you have. We’ll use an Orthopantogram (OPG x-ray), 3D, and a Cone Beam CT scan to examine your mouth before your wisdom tooth surgery.
What Can Impacted Wisdom Teeth Cause?
You may not know you have impacted wisdom teeth in the initial stages, but as time goes on, it should be clear there are issues. Impacted third molars cause swelling and discomfort within the jaw, there can be extensive tooth decay in a localised area, damage to other teeth, cysts, and gum infections.
The following symptoms can help you identify an impacted wisdom tooth:
- Jaw pain
- Bad breath
- Inability to fully open your mouth
- Swollen, red gums
- Jaw swelling
- Bleeding or tender gums
Some of these symptoms can also be associated with other oral issues, but if you experience several of these specific symptoms, it’s likely you have impacted wisdom teeth.
If you’re having the recommended semi-annual dental check-ups, your dentist can identify these impactions before they cause oral problems. You can also talk to your dentist about any symptoms you’re experiencing.
Once the dentist has confirmed, via X-ray, that you have problematic impacted wisdom teeth, they’ll likely recommend having them removed. This involves a minor surgical procedure called a wisdom tooth extraction.
If your teeth are only partially impacted your dentist administers a local anaesthetic to numb the area beforehand. For patients who suffer from dental anxiety, Available Dental Care performs wisdom tooth extraction using both inhalation and intravenous sedation to provide you with a deep sense of relaxation and improve your comfort.
During this procedure, the dentist makes a small incision in the gum to reveal the impacted tooth and remove any bone that blocks it. The dentist then removes the tooth, cleans the extraction site, and stitches up the wound. Sometimes, it is possible to extract the tooth without making an incision if enough of the crown is exposed.
Fully impacted wisdom teeth typically require a complex wisdom tooth removal performed under general anaesthetic. During the procedure, your dentist opens the gum tissue to expose the affected tooth, widens the socket, loosens the tooth using a dental elevator and extracts the tooth using forceps. Your tooth may need to be sectioned and removed in pieces depending on your case.
Following surgery, the incision site is sutured and packed with gauze. You’ll need to clamp the gauze between your teeth to facilitate the formation of a blood clot. Your dentist will give you aftercare instructions to promote a smoother recovery.
If you think you have impacted wisdom teeth, it’s essential to get proper treatment. Get the help you need by visiting a dentist at our practice for an evaluation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.