Wisdom teeth are the last set of adult teeth to grow in, usually between the ages of 17 and 25. They emerge at the back of the mouth as your third molars, and most people have two wisdom teeth on both the top and bottom rows of teeth. When wisdom teeth don’t emerge or develop normally due to overcrowding in the back of the mouth, they can become impacted.
Impacted wisdom teeth are notorious for causing pain, damage to other teeth, and other dental complications. Impacted wisdom teeth can also increase your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and infection as they are hard to clean. In some cases, however, impacted wisdom teeth don’t cause apparent or immediate problems.
Impacted wisdom teeth are usually removed when they cause pain and other dental complications. Still, some dentists recommend removing asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth to prevent future complications.
Impacted wisdom teeth don’t always cause noticeable problems. In some cases, however, they manifest in many unmistakable symptoms, especially as the condition worsens and affects adjacent teeth.
Wisdom teeth become impacted when there isn’t enough space in your jaw for the teeth to erupt or develop normally. They can be partially or fully impacted. Partial impaction occurs when the tooth erupts through the gum so that part of the crown is visible but the rest is below the gum line. Full impaction occurs when the tooth doesn’t emerge and is completely hidden underneath the gums.
Whether partially or fully impacted, wisdom teeth come in different variations. Each type matches the positioning of the impacted tooth:
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several oral health problems, some more serious than others.
If your third molars are causing pain, discomfort, or other dental complications, your dentists will likely recommend extraction. Wisdom tooth extraction involves local anesthesia or general anesthesia, depending on the level of difficulty of the procedure. During the procedure, the oral surgeon will make an incision to carefully extract the tooth and may use tools to break it into smaller pieces for easier removal. The length of the procedure will depend on how deeply the tooth is positioned.
After the wisdom tooth extraction, you’ll receive instructions for managing pain and swelling and caring for the wound while you recover. While many people recover from wisdom tooth surgery in a few days, it can sometimes take up to two weeks before you’re ready to return to your regular routine.
The thought of having an impacted wisdom tooth removed may be overwhelming, but getting care early on in the process can prevent serious and permanent problems. If you have pain or other symptoms originating from the area behind your last molar, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist.