Wisdom teeth are the last four of your 32 teeth to erupt. On average, these teeth appear between the ages of 17 to 25. When one of these teeth doesn’t have enough room to come in normally, it is considered impacted. Teeth may become twisted, tilted horizontally, or displaced as they try to emerge and sometimes could lead to complications.
According to Blum and Nicolaievsky, there are several degrees of impacted wisdom teeth, based on where the teeth lie within the jaw. Soft tissue impaction occurs when the crown of the tooth has penetrated through the bone, but the gum is still covering part of the tooth. When the tooth has partially erupted, but a part of the tooth remains submerged in the jawbone, this is considered partial bony impaction. Complete bony impaction occurs when the tooth is entirely encased by jawbone.
You could have impacted teeth and not even realize it because most of the time impacted third molars do not show symptoms. However, if symptoms do arise, you could expect some of these:
- swollen and bleeding gums
- swelling around the jaw
- bad breath
- headache or jaw ache
- unpleasant taste when eating
- stiffness of the jaw
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Should you experience any of these impacted wisdom tooth symptoms, visit your dentist.
Impacted wisdom teeth that are left untreated can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. You may also experience damage to your other teeth, including infection and overcrowding of teeth. In rare cases, impacted wisdom teeth can cause cysts and tumors.
Annual dental appointments and x-rays can catch impacted teeth early before they start to show symptoms. Your dentist will most likely recommend surgery to remove the impacted teeth.
During the surgery the oral surgeon will put an incision into the gums and remove the tooth or teeth in sections in order to minimize the amount of bone being removed.
After surgery, swelling and tenderness in the face and neck are common, as is bruising. Ice packs and pain medications prescribed by the dentist or oral surgeon should help ease the pain.