How Serious Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth, sometimes called the third molars, are usually the last to erupt. They usually grow in or erupt when an individual is between 17 and 25 years. Impacted wisdom teeth occur when the molars become fully or partially trapped in the gum or jawbone. It can lead to oral health issues like infection, gum disease, and tooth decay. When this happens, surgical removal is recommended. 


Identifying Impacted Wisdom Teeth


When wisdom teeth erupt fully visible above the gumline, they are called non-impacted wisdom teeth. In some cases, the teeth can become fully impacted when they are not visible or are completely hidden under the gums. 

Partially impacted wisdom teeth are slightly visible as only part of the tooth erupts. Soft tissue impaction occurs when the tooth has erupted from the jawbone but has not emerged through the gum. In hard tissue impaction, the tooth is covered by the gums and jawbone. 


Types of Impacted Wisdom Teeth 


There are various forms of impacted wisdom teeth based on their positioning. They are:

  • Vertical impaction occurs when the wisdom tooth is in the correct position but is trapped underneath the gums

  • Mesial impaction is the most prevalent type, where the wisdom tooth faces the front of the mouth

  • Distal impaction occurs when the wisdom tooth faces the back of the mouth. It is the rarest type

  • Horizontal impaction is where the wisdom tooth lies on its side, trapped beneath the gums. It is usually the most painful type, and it places extra pressure on nearby teeth


How Serious Is an Impacted Tooth?


Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to pain and infection, and they can also damage nearby teeth. The teeth are hard to clean, making them prone to decay and gum disease. In some cases, impacted teeth can cause headaches or pain in the jaw and face. Doctors recommend the removal of impacted wisdom teeth to provide relief. It is necessary to know that non-impacted wisdom teeth can also cause problems.  


Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth


Sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth may not cause noticeable symptoms. But in some cases, they lead to various symptoms, including:

  • Pain or swelling in the face or jaw

  • Swollen, red, or bleeding gums

  • Halitosis or bad breath

  • A bad taste in the mouth

  • Difficulty opening the mouth wide


Diagnosing Impacted Wisdom Teeth


Impacted wisdom teeth usually occur when there is inadequate space to accommodate all the teeth. Sometimes, teeth erupt but do so at the wrong angle. To diagnose an impacted tooth, the dentist will conduct an oral examination and ask about symptoms. Dental X-rays can help check if teeth are impacted and detect damage to the jawbone and nearby teeth. 

Wisdom teeth removal is usually recommended for teeth causing dental problems. Removal helps prevent pain, infection, and damage. The surgery may also be recommended as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of complications in the future. Before the procedure, the dental surgeon will explain any risks or complications associated with the removal. 

For more on how serious an impacted wisdom tooth is, visit Oral Surgical Associates at our Missoula or Hamilton, Montana, office. Call (406) 282-8768 to schedule an appointment today.

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