Anytime you have a tooth that does not erupt (surface) correctly but rather stays submerged below the gum you have a problem. Sometimes this situation can cause significant pain, while other times it can be totally pain-free. When this occurs to a wisdom tooth (third molar), you have what is commonly referred to as an impacted wisdom tooth. This generally occurs when there is insufficient room in the mouth, and the wisdom tooth “impacts” or butts up against an adjacent tooth.
Third molars come in typically between the ages of 17 and 25, when a moderate amount of “wisdom” is supposedly achieved. Most people have four wisdom teeth; however, it is possible to have more or less. The key to not having issues generally depends upon one main factor: having adequate space for them to grow and erupt into proper position.
The most common consequence of having an impacted wisdom tooth is gum (periodontal) disease and damage to adjacent healthy teeth. This makes removing the impacted tooth so important. Another problem with impacted wisdom teeth is that they can affect other adjacent structures like gum, bone, nerves, blood vessels and sinuses. They can also become cystic, a condition in which the submerged tooth is surrounded by a closed sac or membrane that can cause possible infection and loss of bone.
We stress the importance of routine dental exams between the ages of 17 and 25 to catch problems with wisdom teeth before they start. The best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it is not causing problems and the sooner and younger you are the better!
To learn more about the symptoms and treatment options of impacted wisdom teeth, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wisdom Teeth.” Or, you can contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions.