Wisdom teeth are the last to grow in the mouth and are most susceptible to dental problems.
Why? There is not enough room for them to erupt, so they often develop in the wrong shape and position. It is at this point we say the wisdom teeth are impacted.
If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can cause infections, receding gums, and severe health problems like migraine. Therefore, early detection is vital.
The most common signs of an impacted wisdom tooth are gum ache, pain, and swelling around the jaw.
Below, we elaborate on some warning signs of impacted wisdom teeth and what to do to save the situation.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
Your wisdom teeth become impacted when they cannot erupt normally or entirely. Impacted wisdom teeth are characterized by one or more of the following;
- Growth inclined towards the second molar or the oral cavity.
- Growth totally “lying down” with the jaw or at a right angle to other teeth.
- Growth at a right angle but without enough space on the sides.
- Growth straight up or down like other teeth but trapped within the jawbone
What causes impacted wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth become impacted when the individual’s jaws aren’t large enough to accommodate the third molars (wisdom teeth).
In this case, the wisdom teeth partially erupt so that only a part of the crown is visible (partial impaction), or they never break through the gums and remain trapped in that area (full impaction).
Warning signs of impacted wisdom teeth
Pain around the mouth or face
Impacted wisdom teeth often push against neighboring teeth, causing pain at the back of the mouth. In severe cases, this pain could radiate outward to other areas of the mouth and face.
An impacted wisdom tooth can cause swelling in areas beneath the chin or at the ends of the jaw. If you feel tenderness around your jaw, it could indicate wisdom teeth impaction.
Wisdom teeth impaction affects the jaws severely, causing them to swell or bleed. If you experience any swollen or painful gum around the back of your mouth, you likely have an impacted wisdom tooth.
Other signs of impacted wisdom teeth are;
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Difficult or painful chewing
- Jaw stiffness
- Bad breath
Complications caused by impacted wisdom teeth
If untreated, wisdom teeth impaction could result in an infection of the gum tissues in the mouth (pericoronitis), causing pain to other jaw areas.
If you notice pus drainage in your mouth, you probably have an infected gum caused by wisdom teeth.
As mentioned in previous articles, wisdom teeth are located at the extreme back of the mouth, which is most difficult to clean. As a result, food deposits aggregate between the third molars and the gum, causing tooth decay.
Damage to neighboring teeth
Since impacted wisdom teeth do not have enough space to erupt normally, they often press against the second molar, deforming them. Impacted wisdom teeth can also spread bacteria and cavities to other teeth.
A cyst is a sac of fluid that can develop around an impacted wisdom tooth. Without treatment, a cyst can grow, causing damage to the jawbone and nerves of neighboring teeth.
How to prevent wisdom teeth impaction
Since wisdom teeth impaction occurs naturally, it may be impossible to influence how your wisdom teeth erupt. However, you can take measures to monitor their appearance and angle of inclination.
Below are some tips to help prevent impacted wisdom teeth:
- Visit a dentist every six months for regular tooth cleaning and assessment of your dental health. This way, he can monitor any emergence of wisdom teeth and decide the best course of action for you.
- If recommended by your dentist, get regular x-rays to detect a possible impaction before symptoms occur.
How to treat an impacted wisdom tooth
The most common and lasting option for impacted wisdom teeth is to have them removed by surgery.
The procedure varies from person to person, depending on the severity of the impaction. Your dentist will prescribe the best treatment for you, explaining in detail what you can expect during the procedure.
What to do after a wisdom tooth removal
Like other surgeries, you’ll likely experience a little hurt around the impacted area. Below are some post-extraction care tips to help ease any discomfort and prevent complications.
- Apply an ice pack to the affected jaw for about 15 minutes twice daily.
- If necessary, take an analgesic to ease the pain.
- Rest as much as you can, and avoid making sudden movements.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking for 48 hours.
- Bite down gently on a gauze to stop any bleeding.
- Stick to soft foods such as mashed vegetables, broths, and avocados.
Frequently asked questions
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth impaction occurs when the third molars grow at an awkward angle.
Can I treat impacted wisdom teeth at home?
No, the best solution for wisdom teeth impaction is to extract them. Home remedies like ice packs, salt water rinse, and clove oil will only help to reduce the pain caused by impacted wisdom teeth rather than treat the problem itself.
What triggers impacted wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth become impacted when the jaws don’t have enough space to accommodate the third molars.
Can impacted wisdom teeth fix itself?
The answer is no; an impacted wisdom tooth will never fix itself.
Can I live with impacted wisdom teeth?
Impacted wisdom teeth usually cause pain that often travels to other areas of the mouth and face, causing severe health problems. Living with an impacted wisdom tooth is not advisable.
Sometimes wisdom teeth don’t grow straight from the gums like other teeth; they can lean forward, growing toward the second molars and causing damage to the gums in your mouth.
If you experience swollen jaw, bad breath, and gum aches, you have impacted wisdom teeth and should see a dentist immediately.