Wisdom teeth are normally the last teeth to erupt in the human mouth. However, sometimes the jaw may not be large enough to accommodate the upcoming teeth, and this can lead to a situation of impacted wisdom teeth.

How do impacted wisdom teeth occur?

The abnormal development of the third molars (wisdom teeth) can impact the function of the second molar set. As a result, an oral surgeon may recommend the removal of the impacted teeth to prevent further dental issues and complex oral surgeries.

Having impacted wisdom teeth can lead to tooth misalignment.

They are teeth that erupt partially or do not appear at all. In a partial eruption, half of the tooth structure remains concealed in the jawbone. It’s medically referred to as a partial bony impaction. On the other hand, when the entire tooth fails to erupt, it is called a bony impaction, and in this case, the tooth stays covered by the jawbone.

A bony impaction might not result in any symptoms, although at times it can lead to the development of cysts or neoplasms. For a partial bony eruption, cavities or pericoronitis may occur.

Why does the problem occur?

In general, the impacted wisdom tooth disorder happens mainly because of the lack of enough jaw space after the second molars. It can also occur if the existing teeth are misaligned.

Although there is a potential for four wisdom teeth (two in the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw), some people have all of them while others develop just one or two. It is estimated that around 25% of people lack at least one wisdom tooth.

It has not yet been understood clearly why the lack of enough jaw space occurs, but it appears that having a large tooth size and crowding of teeth are linked to getting impacted wisdom teeth.

Some researchers blame the impaction problem on dietary changes in the modern world. The stone-age man’s diet necessitated more muscle activity in chewing, and this is believed to have enabled better jawbone development, thus providing enough space for wisdom teeth to grow as they should.

There is also an assumption that since the early man consumed coarse food that could potentially generate extensive tooth damage or loss; the teeth shifted forward, thus leaving adequate space for the eruption of wisdom teeth.

Impacted wisdom teeth can be caused by lack of jaw space, the angle the tooth is growing and more.

Who is most affected by the condition?

Any person can suffer from impacted wisdom teeth. If the following factors are present, there is an increased likelihood that an individual’s third molars will not grow well:

  • Lack of enough jaw space for wisdom teeth eruption.
  • The other teeth in the mouth are blocking the wisdom tooth’s growth path.
  • The impacted tooth is growing at an angle or improper position.

There are different types of impacted wisdom tooth positions, including:

  1. Distal: The wisdom tooth faces the rear of the mouth, and it is the hardest to remove.
  2. Vertical: The tooth’s orientation is pretty much normal.
  3. Horizontal: The impacted tooth lies on its side.
  4. Mesial: The wisdom tooth is pointing forward towards the front of the mouth.
  5. Bony: Most of the tooth’s structure is in the jawbone, and surgery might be required.
  6. Soft tissue: The wisdom tooth’s crown has penetrated through the jawbone but hasn’t erupted through the gum tissue completely, and surgery might also be necessary.

How are impacted wisdom teeth treated?

If your dentist recommends oral surgery to remove your impacted teeth, you should consider it because of possible infections and other dental problems that might arise.  Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain and discomfort, and if they are partially or fully erupted, it might be challenging to keep them clean. As a result, plaque may accumulate in the area over time and lead to cavities, oral pain, and infections.

Such a situation is especially real for persons with misaligned teeth, partially erupted teeth or poor oral hygiene habits. If a difficult-to-remove mass of plaque develops, it can ultimately cause tooth decay and gum disease. Moreover, the teeth adjacent to the impacted teeth can be in imminent danger too. They can decay and require immediate removal.

The best treatment for impacted wisdom teeth is complete removal at the earliest time recommended by your dentist. The ease of removal depends on the tooth’s position. Vertical impactions are the easiest to remove while distal impactions are the most difficult. That is why it is essential to consult a qualified dentist or oral surgeon to know if your wisdom teeth are harder or easier to remove.

Before getting your impacted wisdom teeth removed, be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly.

Here’s what you should know about a Wisdom Teeth Removal procedure:

  • Before the surgery

Your dentist/oral surgeon will perform an oral examination to find out the extent of the damage and then give you pre-surgery guidelines like not eating or drinking anything before the surgery. You should also inform your doctor if you are currently taking any medication as it might interfere with the procedure.

  • Do some proper cleaning and preparation

Before the surgery, brush your teeth properly, floss, and also scrape your tongue. After the surgery, you won’t be able to do those things for several days.  You should also prepare a recovery room for yourself with a comfortable pillow and other essential items. Stock up on soft foods that will last you for a while after the surgery like broth or yogurt.

  • Try to stay comfortable

Without a doubt, oral surgery can cause a lot of anxiety. Other than asking your dentist to recommend some calming medication such as valium, you can also wear headphones that isolate any exterior noise. Listening to soothing music or a podcast can help to lower your anxiety. You can also ask a family member or friend to accompany you to the location of the surgery.

  • Bone Grafting

Anyone with a weak jaw requires bone grafting before dental surgery. Most people below 25 years do not need to undergo the process. The dentist will determine if you need one or not as they make a diagnosis.

  • Types of anesthesia used

Patients can choose sedation, nitrous and local, general anesthesia, or local anesthesia. Sedation is administered via an IV, and you will feel no pain. Nitrous and local is affordable, fast, efficient, wears off fast, and leaves the patient feeling bubbly and happy.

General anesthesia knocks the patient off entirely and works best for complicated tooth extraction procedures. Lastly, local anesthesia numbs the surgery site only, and one stays awake and feels some pressure, but no pain.

Notify the oral surgeon if you have any known allergies to anesthesia and ask the pros and cons of each type.

  • After the surgery

The dentists will let you recover for several minutes or hours, depending on the type of anesthesia administered. They will also check any bleeding or abnormal breathing before allowing you to leave.

When you return home, remain in an elevated position for a few days to allow for faster healing. You can use a jaw cold pack to decrease the pain in the jaw.

As you recover, please avoid: blowing or drinking out of a straw, smoking, spitting, brushing teeth for 2-3 days, taking too many painkillers, drinking cold water (warm is better), taking solid food for about one day, doing heavy activities, and rinsing your mouth.

If you experience symptoms such as excessive bleeding, problems in breathing or swallowing, pus/blood discharge from the nose, unbearable pain, excessive swelling, loss of sensation, or fever, please call your dentist right away.

Get the help you need today!

Dr. Christopher Johnson D.M.D is an accomplished and highly respected dental surgeon who performs all sorts of oral surgeries, including the removal of impacted wisdom teeth and oral implants. His patient-centered approach and use of state-of-the-art medical tools and techniques for the dental procedure have a soothing effect on his clients. Additionally, he works together with experienced and equally welcoming staff. If you are experiencing a dental problem, reach out to his friendly and knowledgeable team today, and book an appointment.