Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Complete Guide

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You must be knowing that wisdom teeth are also known as the third molars, the last teeth that grow in your jaw. They are located towards the end of your upper and lower gums, at the back of your mouth. People generally have four wisdom teeth, but you could also have zero. But if your wisdom tooth gets stuck under your gums or does not find enough space to break through the gum – it might be considered as impacted wisdom teeth.

Unfortunately, impacted wisdom teeth are more prone to infection, tooth decay, disease, and other dental problems. In most cases, these teeth appear in late adolescence or early adulthood, more precisely between 17 and 25 years. Wisdom teeth are also referred to as your third set of molars. Do not be surprised; these teeth can vary from zero to four. 

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When your third molar has grown normally, it becomes a functional element of your oral cavity. On the contrary, there are cases when the eruption is not seamless, and your tooth might become impacted. Read on to know about impacted wisdom teeth and how dentists treat such teeth.

What are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

The human mouth has 28 teeth, and there is not enough room for all the 32 teeth to include the four wisdom teeth. So if your wisdom teeth do come through, they might cause crowding, infections, swelling, and ear pain.

Due to the change in the jaw structure over the years, the human wisdom teeth do not have sufficient room to grow correctly. They are known as impacted wisdom teeth as they do not fully erupt into the mouth.

Because of lack of space, these teeth can grow in the wrong direction. Some might be seen to come out sideways, at an incorrect angle, or only partially. These scenarios can badly affect your nearby teeth. They may be painful and can also damage the other teeth in the jaw.

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Even if no apparent damage occurs, as discussed above, your teeth can become more susceptible to infection and disease. If it remains just under the gum, known as tissue impacted, bacteria can start collecting in the area. This in the long run will give rise to infection.

However, for many, the wisdom teeth will grow and settle down. There is no need for extraction as long as you practice good oral hygiene.

You might need wisdom teeth removal if:

  • There is pressure, pain, swelling, and discomfort.
  • If it is clear that the teeth will not have room to grow or that they will cause damage to adjacent teeth
  • The teeth are partially erupted and decayed. It makes them harder to reach for cleaning.

Symptoms: Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Depending on how your teeth grow, impacted wisdom teeth can have:

  • Mesioangular impaction: The tooth is angled towards the front of the mouth.
  • Vertical impaction: The tooth does not break through the gum line.
  • Distoangular impaction: It is angled towards the back of your mouth.
  • Horizontal impaction: It is angled sideways at a full 90 degrees. The tooth will grow into the roots of the molar next to it.

Therefore, your impacted wisdom tooth can cause a range of problems and complications. The overcrowding and pressure on nearby teeth can lead to the general crowding in your mouth. As a result, you might need orthodontic treatments to straighten your crooked teeth.

In another scenario, your wisdom tooth might grow into a sac in the jawbone. This sac is filled with fluid that often crests a cyst. The cyst can be harmful as it damages your jawbone and the nearby teeth and nerves.

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The second molar tooth, located next to your wisdom tooth, is often prone to infection if something pushes against it. Even if your impacted teeth have no symptoms, there are chances it may damage other teeth.

An oral infection could lead to bad breath, toothache, earache, headache, and a strange taste in your mouth. In addition, impacted teeth can lead to the swollen jaw, swollen gums, bleeding gums, and other dental complications.

More serious infections include cellulitis in the tongue, throat, or cheek, which can be noticed. Or even gingivitis, the gum disease that results when plaque on teeth starts to irritate your gums.

Tips to Relieve Symptoms

To relieve symptoms, you can try the following:

  • Use painkillers, and try swallowing them. 
  • Use a salt water mouthwash. Try warm water with a teaspoon of salt in it, several times a day. This is very effective in reducing inflammation and soreness. 
  • You can try using an antibacterial mouthwash.

If your pain continues, seek medical attention at the earliest and talk to your dentist. 

Common Problems with Impacted Wisdom Teeth

1 Pain – It is the most common symptom. Wisdom tooth pain occurs in most impacted tooth situations. When wisdom teeth start growing waywardly, they often touch your neighboring teeth and their roots. Pain symptoms might spread to the gums around your tooth, which might begin to hurt. You can feel the pain even as far as the jaw.

2 Cleaning Issues and Increased Risk of Infections – Impacted teeth can create problems even before you notice them. Wisdom teeth, due to their position, are harder to clean. Reaching the back of your mouth with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss is very difficult.

Moreover, food often gets stuck between your crowded teeth. Bacteria and microbes from this trapped food could cause an infection or a tooth cavity. It could also lead to specific types of conditions like periodontitis and pericoronitis.

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3 Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Cysts –  Your teeth at the back will not get cleaned properly. Reasons could be due to improper brushing or due to an unseen bacterial infection. With all these conditions, your teeth will enter the stage of tooth decay. 

4 Damage to Nearby Teeth – As you have learned wisdom teeth tend to grow at all different angles. Some might grow straight, causing no issues. Others grow normally, but instead, they grow at an angle or even fully sideways. If your teeth grow crooked, it might cause multiple damages to your mouth. Complications might arise when they push out into the roots of your neighboring healthy teeth. If such a condition happens, you need to visit your dentist or seek professional help.  

Impacted Wisdom Teeth vs. Erupted Wisdom Teeth

When your wisdom tooth cuts through the gum and shows up, it is termed an erupted wisdom tooth. At that stage, your teeth have emerged from the gum. The erupted tooth may grow ideally in its position, or it could develop crooked.

When referring to an erupted wisdom tooth, you should note that the tooth has shown on the surface of the skin. It does not matter whether your teeth are correctly placed or not. If your tooth does not emerge properly, it might increase your chances of getting an infection.

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On the other hand, when the teeth do not emerge as there is insufficient space, then it is called impacted teeth. Although wisdom teeth develop in most individuals, only a very few of them experience perfect wisdom teeth.

Impacted wisdom teeth, in simple terms, mean that something is inhibiting the emergence of the teeth. The tooth may be caught in your jaw, beneath your gums, or develop wrongly.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Removal and Treatment

If you already have impacted wisdom teeth that cause symptoms or problems, your dentist is the right person to decide whether to remove them or not. If your wisdom tooth is painful or troublesome; or causing damage to other teeth or the jaw bone, it needs to be taken out. The angle at which your tooth erupts and the extent to which it might push other teeth will decide whether extraction is required. Surgery to remove your wisdom teeth is generally an outpatient procedure. You can go home the same day.

Your oral surgeon or dentist will perform the operation, which is known as wisdom tooth extraction. During the procedure, your doctor might use anesthetic drugs to induce anesthesia like:

  • Local anesthesia numbs only your mouth area.
  • Sedation anesthesia relax you and blocks the pain.
  • General anesthesia makes you fall asleep so that you do not feel anything during the treatment.

Your dentist will make a small incision in your gums and take out the problematic bone before removing the tooth. They will then close the incision with stitches and pack the area with gauze. The entire surgery would only take around 60 minutes.

In a scenario when your teeth are fully impacted and buried deep within your gums or jawbones, it might be more challenging for your surgeon to remove them surgically.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Extraction – Post Surgery Care

Most individuals can get back to their normal activities a few days after extraction surgery. It usually takes around six weeks for your mouth to heal completely. You should not try to open your mouth for about a week. So try surviving on soft foods.

After surgery, you might experience some bruising, pain, swelling,  and bleeding. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for managing your pain and discomfort. It could include taking pain medications and using cold compresses. 

Some patients also develop a painful dry socket. This scenario occurs when the blood clot that was supposed to form after surgery does not form properly. A dry socket is a commonly occurring complication following tooth extractions. The condition exposes your bones and nerves to bacteria which might become painful.

The pain can gradually worsen until you might start to feel it in the other places of your face. Dry sockets often lead to a bad taste in your mouth.

Following the surgical extraction, you should strictly follow your dentist’s instructions. The regimen could include eating soft food, quit smoking, and refrain from strenuous exercise. Try drinking from a straw until your area is healed. Your dentists might also suggest other measures to increase the healing time and process.

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