A Quick Overview of Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth, also known as the third and final set of molars, are the toughest, widest teeth in the human mouth. These teeth normally appear in late adolescence or early adulthood between the ages of 17-25 years and are located at the end of the upper and lower gums in the very back of the mouth.
For decades, wisdom teeth have been identified as a source of problems and continue to be the most commonly impacted teeth in the human mouth. You may be asking yourself, “Why do we need wisdom teeth anyway?”, and the simple answer is, we really don’t! Many centuries ago our ancestors relied on these strong teeth for chewing up raw meat and hardy foliage, but since the rise of modern agriculture, easier foods to chew have become the norm. This evolution has resulted in humans having much smaller and narrower jaws, equating to less room in our mouths for wisdom teeth to grow in properly. This has become an issue because when teeth are not given enough space to come out of the gum like they should, they will likely become impacted.
What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
When a wisdom tooth is described as impacted, it means that your molar does not have enough room to grow and will not properly emerge into the mouth as it is meant to. This results in wisdom teeth that can have:
- Vertical impaction – the tooth does not break through the gum line
- Mesioangular impaction – the tooth is angled towards the front of the mouth
- Distoangular impaction – the tooth is angled towards the back of the mouth
- Horizontal impaction – the tooth is angled sideways at a full 90 degrees, and grows into the roots of the molar next to it
The fact is, nine out ten people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. If left untreated, improper alignment can crowd or damage nearby teeth, become infected, and even harm the jawbone and surrounding nerves.
Diagnosing an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
The signs and symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth can vary from person to person, some being more serious than others. When you do begin to notice an impacted wisdom tooth, it is usually due to the gum on top of the tooth becoming swollen. If left unattended, impacted wisdom teeth can cause infections within the mouth that can lead to:
- Lesions or abnormal looking tissue
- Bone loss around roots
- Damage to second molars
- Cysts or noncancerous tumors
Like anything else, prevention is key to avoiding more serious wisdom tooth infection. Since no one can predict exactly when complications will occur, it is best to understand the warning signs associated with infections caused by impacted wisdom teeth. The signs associated with wisdom tooth infection typically include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Jaw pain
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste in mouth
- Jaw stiffness
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck
- Sore throat
Should you notice any of these impacted wisdom tooth signs or symptoms, it is imperative to reach out to the seasoned professionals at Waco Oral Surgery & Dental Care for assistance. Additionally, sometimes impacted wisdom teeth will show no signs or symptoms. Even though this may be the case, it is vital to remember that this area of the mouth is particularly hard to clean, thus creating an ideal environment for bacteria. This excess bacterium can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and can even enter the bloodstream and lead to potential systemic infections or illnesses. Annual dental appointments and x-rays can catch impacted teeth early on before they start to show symptoms and cause unnecessary pain.
Waco Oral Surgery & Dental Implants Can Help
At Waco Oral Surgery & Dental Implants, our dental professionals will take x-rays before your wisdom teeth removal to identify the location of your tooth or teeth that needs extracting. Impacted wisdom teeth generally fall into four categories based on how they are positioned in the mouth and will need to be removed, these include:
- Erupted – This type of wisdom tooth removal is the simplest because the tooth has already emerged in the mouth
- Soft-Tissue Impacted – this type of wisdom tooth removal is not as complicated because the tooth is only stuck under the gum
- Partial-Bony Impacted – this type of wisdom tooth removal is a little more difficult, as it involves extracting a tooth that is partially stuck in the jaw
- Full-Bony Impacted – this type of wisdom tooth removal is the most difficult because the wisdom tooth is fully stuck within the jaw.
While surgery may sound scary, it is common and far less uncomfortable than most impacted wisdom tooth pain. In fact, no matter what your symptoms are now, approximately 85% of all wisdom teeth will need to be removed due to oral issues that will happen down the road. Don’t wait for the side effects of impacted wisdom teeth to become severe, visit Waco Oral Surgery & Dental in Waco, TX, where caring, compassion, and patient satisfaction is our MISSION!