Humans once had larger jaws and a need for wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) to chew plants, raw meat, and berries. As our diets have changed, so has the structure of our mouths.
Modern humans function just fine without third molars. Alas, when we are around 17-21, our wisdom teeth still come in. An estimated 85% of people need to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point. It is extremely rare for them to grow in normal with no complications.
At Vellore Woods Dentistry, we have tons of experience dealing with wisdom teeth that need to be extracted. Here’s everything you need to know impacted wisdom teeth to avoid serious complications down the road.
What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
If you are like most people, you will have complications with the third molars. Often, these teeth grow in “impacted”. Impacted third molars remain below the gumline or breakthrough just a little bit. They usually come in at an unnatural angle, bumping your second molar.
Most dentists and oral surgeons recommend taking out impacted wisdom teeth as soon as possible. The younger you are, the faster the healing process.
Types of Impaction
The types of pain and complications depend heavily on the type of impaction you are experiencing. It is crucial to get dental x-rays because wisdom teeth are usually invisible to the naked eye since they are stuck under the gums.
- Full-Bony Impacted: In this case, the tooth is stuck under the jaw. This is the hardest type of removal.
- Partial-Bony Impacted: The tooth is only partially stuck in the jaw.
- Soft Tissue Impacted: The tooth is not stuck in the jaw, but still remains below the gumline. Usually, the tooth is coming in at an angle.
- Erupted: It is uncommon for wisdom teeth to fully erupt into functional teeth past the gumline. Most of the time, wisdom teeth are only partially erupted.
Unfortunately, it is common to experience side effects with the growth of wisdom teeth. Even if you are not experiencing pain, your incoming teeth can negatively impact your oral health. The following are the 5 most common issues resulting from the third molars.
1. Shifting and Damage of the Surrounding Teeth
Most third molars tend to come in at an angle or completely horizontal, causing them to push against the other teeth. Constant pressure on your teeth causes them to shift and become crooked. This is especially important to consider if you have invested money and time into braces and Invisalign. The pressure of the third molar on the neighboring tooth can also cause damage to the second molar. Damaged teeth increase their risk of infection.
2. Tooth Decay
Partially emerged wisdom teeth create a trap for food between the tooth and the gum. The small gap is extremely hard to clean with normal brushing and flossing. The food left behind causes cavity-forming decay.
It is sometimes possible for a dentist to remove the decay and place a filling on a partially erupted third molar. However, this is not always the best option. If the area is too hard to keep clean, a filling serves as a temporary solution to a recurring problem.
When left untreated, tooth decay can travel to the nerve, causing complications such as abscesses and the need for a root canal. If the area is too hard to keep clean, it is recommended to avoid the complications by simply pulling the tooth.
3. Gum Infection
Excessive tooth decay on the wisdom teeth can also be the cause of gum infection, also known as pericoronitis. Pericoronitis causes uncomfortable symptoms such as pain and swelling, so it is a common symptom that gets people into the dentist office.
If left untreated, gum infection can lead to bad breath and severe side effects such as swelling of the lymph nodes and difficulty opening the mouth. A toothache from pericoronitis should not be ignored; the infection can spread to the jawbone and bloodstream.
In the early stages, gum infections can be treated with antibiotics and rinsing with warm salt water. Severe infections may require an oral surgery or wisdom tooth removal. Pericoronitis is one of the main catalysts that push people to get their third molars extracted. The recurring swelling and pain can become unbearable, usually leading to extraction.
Dental cysts are one of the rarest complications from impacted wisdom teeth, occurring 1%-2% of the time. Cysts are more irritating than painful, but they should not be ignored. The fluid-filled cyst can damage the jawbone and nerves around the teeth. There is also the possibility of cysts forming into benign (non-cancerous) tumors. Complications can require invasive surgery involving the removal of bone and tissue.
5. Sinus Issues
How can teeth growing in relate to sinus problems? Below the part of the tooth that you can see is a long root. When wisdom teeth grow in on the upper arch of the mouth, the roots can put pressure on your sinus system. This can lead to symptoms such as headaches, congestion, pressure, and sinus pain.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent wisdom teeth from coming in impacted. Usually, it just depends on how large your mouth is and luck. Once wisdom teeth grow in, proper oral hygiene, proper flossing of the tooth, and regular dental exams and x-rays can help to prevent severe issues and pain.
When to Remove Wisdom Teeth
A dentist and oral surgeon can let you know when an extraction is necessary. As a general rule of thumb, if the pain is constantly recurring and making it difficult to eat, sleep, or focus, it is probably time to get them out. Wisdom teeth removal can be intimidating, especially because it is the first surgery for most. Downtime from work is only 2-3 days for most people, and the sooner you get it done, the better.
We know how much stress that wisdom teeth can cause. If you are having issues with your wisdom teeth, feel free to contact us today at Vellore Woods Dentistry online or at 905-417-5550.