All About Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Causes, Treatment, and More
A person’s wisdom teeth are the third set of molars located in the back of the mouth. In most cases, these teeth emerge during one’s late teen years or early adulthood.
Dentists consider a wisdom tooth “impacted” if it gets stuck under the gums, or if it does not have enough room to break through the gums. Due to its concealed location and the lack of oral care it can receive, an impacted wisdom tooth is more susceptible to decay, disease, and other dental problems. As a preventive step and solution, about ten million people have their wisdom teeth removed each year.
What are the symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth?
Some people with impacted wisdom teeth are lucky enough to experience zero problems, while others endure uncomfortable symptoms.
For example, when an impacted wisdom tooth does not fully break through the gums—meaning part of the gums remains visible instead of the tooth completely occupying the area—dentists refer to this matter as a “partially impacted wisdom tooth.”
A partially impacted wisdom tooth has a tendency to trap food particles along the edges of its nooks and crannies, which is an ideal breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria. For many individuals, a partially impacted tooth is also excruciatingly painful.
If an impacted tooth becomes infected or causes other issues, the associated symptoms often include:
- Bad breath or halitosis
- Pain or swelling around the jaw
- Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth
In other cases, the wisdom tooth may never erupt through the gums. Dentists refer to this circumstance as a “fully impacted wisdom tooth.”
What is the cause of an impacted wisdom tooth?
In general, wisdom teeth become impacted when the jaw does not have sufficient space for the teeth. Sometimes, the tooth grows at an unusual angle, which can lead to it becoming impacted.
Who is at risk of having impacted wisdom teeth?
You may have a higher chance of experiencing an impacted wisdom tooth if:
- You are a teenager or young adult between the ages of 17 and 25. However, it is crucial to know that wisdom teeth can sometimes emerge in your 40s or 50s.
- Your jaw structure is small.
Is an impacted wisdom tooth preventable?
Unfortunately, there is no known practice for preventing an impacted tooth. Good dental hygiene may, in hindsight, help you avoid potential consequences and uncomfortable symptoms. Check out these nine steps to achieving healthy teeth and gums, as well as the recommended oral hygiene mistakes you need to correct.
How does a top dentist in Montclair, CA diagnose an impacted wisdom tooth?
Here at Cunning Dental Group, our dentists can determine if your wisdom tooth or teeth are impacted by conducting a thorough examination and a simple X-ray of your oral cavity. If the results show that you have impacted wisdom teeth, then you and your dentist will discuss the risks and benefits of undergoing surgery.
What is the treatment for impacted wisdom teeth in California?
If your impacted wisdom teeth cause painful symptoms or other dental problems, then we may suggest extracting them. Surgery to remove wisdom teeth, otherwise known as wisdom tooth extraction, is usually an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home after surgery. The entire procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete.
If you have concerns about any pain or discomfort you may feel during surgery—worry not. As part of the procedure, your dentist will use anesthetic drugs to induce a type of anesthesia, such as:
- Local anesthesia to numb the mouth area
- IV sedation to help you feel relaxed, as well as block any pain
- General anesthesia to put you in a sleep-like state during surgery
What is the recovery like?
After the procedure and once the anesthetics wear off, you may experience some pain, swelling, and bleeding. Your dentist in Southern California will provide you with specific instructions for managing discomfort, such as using cold compresses and taking pain medications.
A few days following wisdom teeth extraction, most patients can resume their regular activities. However, it is important to understand that it usually takes up to six weeks for the mouth to heal completely. Therefore, you may not be able to open your mouth normally for the first few weeks, so you will need to eat soft foods.
Is it always necessary to remove impacted teeth?
If your impacted wisdom teeth do not cause problems, then your dentist might suggest leaving them alone. Still, there is an ongoing debate in the medical community regarding what to do with impacted wisdom teeth that do not cause symptoms. Some dentists recommend removing them to prevent problems later on, while others, as mentioned, argue that extracting the teeth is nonessential.
Even if you and your dentist decide that surgery is unnecessary for the time being, you will still need monitoring for dental problems that may come to light in the future. Visit your dentist at least once every six months and always remember to floss around your wisdom teeth.
What are the possible complications of impacted wisdom teeth?
Leaving an impacted wisdom tooth in your mouth, especially if you are experiencing symptoms, may lead to the following problems:
- Tooth decay
- Crowding of nearby teeth
- Damage to other teeth
- Gum disease
- Difficulty flossing
- Ineffective brushing
Due to these potential complications, the majority of dentists may suggest removing impacted wisdom teeth, regardless if they do not cause symptoms. The surgical removal of wisdom teeth at a younger age may lead to better results and fewer risks, too.
Where can I find the best oral surgeon near me?
Cunning Dental Group consists of licensed professionals specializing in general and cosmetic dentistry in Southern California. For more than 51 years, our practice remains committed to offering quality dental services and patient education in a comfortable, compassionate, and caring environment for you and your entire family.