Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to break through the gums, usually doing so when the patient is a teenager (or even into the patient’s 20s). A wisdom tooth is considered impacted when it fails to completely break through the gums, remaining trapped in the soft tissue or bones either partially or fully. [pullquote]When a wisdom tooth is impacted and has partially erupted through the gums, it will provide a hiding place for food debris and bacteria.[/pullquote]
Wisdom teeth that come in straight and vertical and that have room to do so can be left alone. The patient may experience minor discomfort, but no other complications. When a wisdom tooth is impacted, a dentist will refer the patient to an oral surgeon to have the tooth removed.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted and has partially erupted through the gums, it will provide a hiding place for food debris and bacteria. Those particles and germs can also enter into the soft tissue through the opening created by the teeth. The difficulty of cleaning these impactions can lead to severe infections, including pericoronitis, which can result in jaw stiffness, pain and swelling. When untreated, these infections can lead to more general illness.
Impacted wisdom teeth that are left untreated can begin to rub up against other teeth, forming an occlusion. This may lead to decay of the surrounding teeth, as well as the impacted tooth itself.
Full bony impactions, a situation where the wisdom tooth is fully enveloped in the jawbone, are the impactions least likely to require surgical removal. However, these impactions can cause cysts or tumors in the jawbone, or lead to reabsorption of the roots of surrounding teeth. Full bony impactions still need to be diagnosed so the dental surgeon can monitor the situation.
To learn more about treatment options for wisdom teeth impactions, contact the office of Dr. Partridge, serving Taylorsville UT, to schedule your consultation.