What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth are third molars at the rear of the mouth, the last adult teeth to emerge. The majority of patients have four wisdom teeth, two upper and two lower. Wisdom teeth develop within a socket in the jaw in the same manner as all other teeth, protected by gums and tissue until they grow and break through the surface. In some cases, however, wisdom teeth only partially erupt, or not at all due to overcrowding, and become impacted.

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain, discomfort, and oral complications ranging from mild to severe.

What Causes Wisdom Teeth to Become Impacted?

Wisdom teeth typically become impacted due to lack of space in the mouth to develop and emerge normally. Wisdom teeth usually begin to develop and emerge in the late teenage and early adult years. For many, wisdom teeth emerge without complications or pain and align properly with other teeth. For others, however, the mouth is too crowded to accommodate normal development of wisdom teeth, causing them to become partially or fully impacted within the jawbone.

Wisdom teeth may become impacted due to:

  • Growing toward the adjacent tooth at an angle.
  • Growing toward the back of the mouth at an angle.
  • Growing at a right angle toward other teeth.
  • Growing up or down properly, but remain trapped in the jawbone.

What Are the Dangers of Having Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

In addition to being painful, there are a host of dangerous associated complications of impacted wisdom teeth, including:

  • Life-threatening neck infections caused by infected tissue overlaying impacted teeth.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Cysts and tumors.
  • Gum disease and tooth decay from trapped food.
  • Realignment and damage of adjacent teeth.
  • Abnormal development of other teeth.
  • Change in overbite structure.
  • Pain, irritation, and friction against inner cheeks, the tongue, and bottom or roof of the mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

Symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth are unmistakable and worsen over time if left untreated, particularly as surrounding teeth become affected, such as:

  • Abscesses, infections, and drainage in the gums or teeth.
  • Tender, swollen, and bleeding gums.
  • Throbbing pain in the impacted teeth.
  • Radiating pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connecting the skull to the jaw.
  • Swollen neck and shoulder glands.
  • Intense pressure in rear molars.
  • Painful and difficult chewing.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Alignment of corresponding upper and lower teeth.
  • Foul odors and breath from infection and bacteria.

How Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth Treated?

If you maintain regular six-month dental appointments, impacted wisdom teeth will be detected during routine panoramic X-rays of your mouth. If found by a dentist, you will be referred to an oral surgeon. Your oral surgeon will develop a treatment plan to address the impacted teeth before they cause pain and complications. The most effective treatment for this is through extraction surgery.

During the surgical procedure, you may be given a mild anesthesia and your mouth anesthetized. Your oral surgeon will remove the tooth through a small incision in the gum over the tooth by either breaking the tooth into smaller piece or excising a small amount of bone, depending on how deeply the tooth is impacted.

You will be prescribed a mild painkiller for post-surgical pain, and you will be provided with post-surgery care instructions regarding eating and drinking, your return to school or work, and a follow-up appointment with your surgeon to assess your healing.

South Jersey Oral Surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons Are Experienced in the Extraction of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can be painful and cause serious oral complications requiring surgical intervention. Our South Jersey oral surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons are trained and experienced in wisdom teeth extraction and other oral surgeries. Call us at 856-582-4222 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Washington Township, Haddonfield, and Woolwich Township, New Jersey, we are dedicated to helping patients throughout South Jersey.

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