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What are impacted wisdom teeth?
An impacted wisdom tooth may partially emerge so that some of the crown is visible (partially impacted), or it may never break through the gums (fully impacted). Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:
- Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)
- Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
- Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is "lying down" within the jawbone
- Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone
Impacted wisdom teeth that cause pain or other dental complications are usually removed. Some impacted wisdom teeth that don't cause symptoms may be removed to prevent future problems.
Must an impacted wisodm tooth come out if it hasn't caused any problems yet?
Many people believe that as long as they are not in pain, they do not have to worry about their wisdom teeth. However, pain free does not mean disease or problem free. In fact, wisdom teeth that come in normally may still be prone to disease, according to a study by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation. AAOMS strongly recommends that third molars be evaluated by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon by the time a patient is a young adult in order to assess the presence of third molars, disease status, and to suggest management options ranging from removal to a monitored retention plan to ensure optimal patient-specific outcomes.
What are the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth?
Impacted wisdom teeth don't always cause symptoms. However, when an impacted wisdom tooth becomes infected, damages other teeth or causes other dental problems, you may experience some of these signs or symptoms:
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
What are the complications of impacted wisdom teeth?
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several problems in the mouth:
Damage to other teeth. If the wisdom tooth pushes against the second molar, it may damage the second molar or make it more vulnerable to infection. This pressure can also cause problems with crowding of the other teeth or orthodontic treatments to straighten other teeth.
Cysts. The wisdom tooth grows in a sac within the jawbone. The sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the jawbone, teeth and nerves. Rarely, a tumor — usually a noncancerous tumor — develops. This complication may require removal of tissue and bone.
Gum disease. The difficulty of cleaning impacted, partially erupted wisdom teeth also makes them a vulnerable site for the development of a painful, inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis (per-ih-kor-o-NI-tis).