Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth. The average person will have a total of four wisdom teeth, including two on the top and two on the bottom located in the back.
In some instances, individuals will experience impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth are third molars at the back of the mouth that don't have enough room to emerge or develop as they normally should. As a result, those who have impacted wisdom teeth may experience pain, damage to other teeth, and even experience other dental-related problems.
With that said, it's not uncommon for individuals to feel no pain at all. In fact, impacted wisdom teeth may lead to no physical discomfort or be no apparent cause of concern. However, impacted teeth are difficult to clean. As such, they are more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease than other teeth in the mouth. Occasionally there can be damaging cysts unknowingly developing around impacted wisdom teeth and rarely a tumor, especially as patients get older.
What causes impacted wisdom teeth?
There are many factors that can contribute to an individual having impacted wisdom teeth. A person's wisdom teeth generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. For some people, wisdom teeth will grow normally. But for others, wisdom teeth will become impacted because there isn't enough room for them to grow.
It's possible that an impacted wisdom tooth will partially emerge, which means that a part of the crown is visible. But fully impacted wisdom teeth are unable to break through the gums. If you have partially or fully impacted wisdom teeth, you may experience the following:
- A wisdom tooth that grows at an angle towards the next tooth
- A wisdom tooth that grows at an angle towards the back of the mouth
- A wisdom tooth that grows at a right angle to the other teeth.
- A wisdom tooth that grows straight up or down like the rest of your teeth, but remains trapped inside the jawbone
Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause discomfort depending on the individual and the way in which the wisdom tooth grows. While a wisdom tooth doesn't always cause discomfort, you will notice symptoms if it's infected, causes damage to other teeth, or results in other dental problems. Here are a few symptoms you might experience.
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Jaw pain
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste inside your mouth
- Difficulties with opening your mouth
Some people choose to live with impacted wisdom teeth. This is because they don't always include uncomfortable symptoms. Even if your wisdom teeth don't appear to be causing you physical problems, they can cause complications later on. Let's take a look at a few complications associated with impacted wisdom teeth.
Damage to Other Teeth
It's possible for the wisdom tooth to push against the second molar. If this happens, it can damage the second molar or increase the risk of infection in that particular area. Additionally, this pressure can lead to tooth crowding that will require orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth out.
Damaging other teeth isn't the only cause for concern. Having impacted wisdom teeth can increase your risk of developing cysts. This is because the wisdom tooth develops in a sac within the jawbone. This sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the jawbone, teeth, and nerves. In rare cases, a benign tumor can form, which may require the removal of tissue and bone.
If you have partially impacted wisdom teeth, you have a higher risk of tooth decay compared to other teeth. This is due to the fact that wisdom teeth are typically harder to clean and bacteria can easily become trapped between the gum and the tooth.
Since impacted wisdom teeth are more difficult to clean, the risk for gum disease can increase. This is a gum infection that damages the gums and can destroy the jawbone.
Injury to Nerves and Sinuses
As we age, the roots of wisdom teeth become fully developed and the bone around the wisdom teeth become more dense. This leads to more difficulty to remove wisdom teeth as we get older. The longer roots become close to the mandibular nerve (which give sensation to the chin and lip region) or extend into the maxillary sinus. The risks of short-term, long-term or even permanent numbness of this nerve or of sinus complications increases with age. For this reason, it is beneficial to have wisdom teeth evaluated as a teen or in the early twenties before the roots are fully developed.
Options for Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If you're living with impacted wisdom teeth, the best option is wisdom tooth removal. The idea of getting surgery can feel scary, but the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth are often more painful than the surgery itself.
In fact, wisdom tooth surgery is very common and generally isn't as intimidating as a person might assume. An oral surgeon or dentist will first numb your mouth to help minimize discomfort during the procedure. A simple incision will be made, which will allow the surgeon to remove one or more impacted wisdom teeth.
Once the impacted wisdom teeth are extracted, the oral surgeon or dentist will use stitches if needed to close the incision and allow time for the gum to heal. Gauze will be placed in the socket where the wisdom teeth were removed. This will help control any bleeding you may experience and promote healing.
Once wisdom tooth removal is complete, the dental professional or oral surgeon will provide you with the best practices in regards to how you should care for your mouth post-surgery to aid in your healing and proper oral health.
WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL RECOVERY
The recovery time for wisdom tooth removal depends on the individual. With that said, it could take up to two weeks for a full recovery. For the quickest recovery, it's essential that you properly care for your wound. Otherwise, you can delay your healing and increase your risk for complications. Here's a general guideline for the healing process.
- First 24 hours: The formation of blood clots
- 2 to 3 days: Individuals should expect to see swelling of the mouth and cheeks peak
- 7 days: Most of the swelling should subside, most stitches should have fallen out
- 7 to 10 days: Jaw stiffness and soreness should diminish
- 2 weeks: Any mild bruising on the face should go away
If you feel as if you're experiencing any symptoms post-surgery that seem out of the ordinary, it's important to contact a professional who can examine your surgical site and see how well it's healing.
If you have impacted wisdom teeth, consider wisdom teeth removal. This is one of the most common dental procedures that can improve your oral health and relieve any pain and complications associated with an impacted tooth. Ready to remove your impacted wisdom tooth and get relief today? Contact us to schedule an appointment.