Signs and Symptoms, Causes of Impacted Tooth Removal

It is often said that wisdom comes with age and experience. If this is true, then it makes sense that your teeth should also start to come in more easily as you get older and wiser. Unfortunately, not all wisdom teeth are created equal, and if yours happen to be impacted, your dentist may recommend removing them.

The most common sign of an impacted wisdom tooth is pain. It can be in the form of a dull ache or a more intense throbbing. Some people may also feel pressure in their jaw, earaches, headaches, and neck pain. Other signs that you might have an impacted wisdom tooth include swelling or redness around your gum line, excessive drooling, and difficulty chewing food on one side of your mouth because teeth already occupy the other side. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential to see a dentist as soon as possible!

But, what exactly does “impacted” mean? In this blog post, we will discuss the common signs of an impacted tooth, the causes of impacted tooth removal, when it should be extracted from the mouth, and the risk of infection factors for keeping it there!

What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars located at the back of your mouth. Wisdom teeth eruption usually occurs during the late teen years or early adulthood (ages 17 to 25).

If your jaw lacks space, the wisdom tooth becomes stuck under the gum or can’t break through the gums; it is considered “impacted.” Impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to cause other dental problems, including tooth decay and other dental and oral health problems.

It can happen when the third molar is prevented from erupting into the mouth, and an impacted wisdom tooth sometimes causes no obvious symptoms. However, most dentists recommend removing wisdom teeth to avoid specific pathologies like nonrestorable caries or oral cysts. They can also cause damage to your other teeth, especially your second molars or the nearby teeth. They are often considered to cause cavities or tooth decay.

Learn More: What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal: Everything You Need To Know

What Are the Common Signs of An Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

It can be challenging to see the back of your mouth, but if you start experiencing oral pain or jaw problems, you can use a mirror to take a look and watch closely. The teeth and areas at the back of your mouth are prone to dental issues in any case, as molars have varied surfaces and tend to have cracks and fissures. And they are hard to reach with floss and with your toothbrush, making them difficult to clean. But wisdom teeth are more vulnerable, significantly, if they are impacted. Thus, they commonly cause oral issues.

Some people with impacted wisdom teeth won’t notice any problems, but some may experience severe symptoms even if they are just about to come out. When an impacted wisdom tooth starts to become infected, various dental health problems may occur. Let’s first discuss the common signs of an impacted wisdom tooth:

Jaw pain 

If your jaw becomes stiff, painful, or hard to open, it may mean that there is a wisdom tooth developing. Troublesome wisdom teeth could lead to redness and swelling of the gums in the area of your jaw. Sometimes, if you wait longer, nerve damage will occur.

Problems with chewing or opening your mouth 

Patients with impacted wisdom teeth have difficulty chewing food or drinking cold drinks. If eating becomes a struggle because of the pain and you can’t eat your favorite foods anymore, it may be time to see a dentist about your problem.

Swollen or bleeding gums

This symptom can be very painful and sometimes an indication of a chance of infection, which leads to gum disease.

Bad Breath (halitosis)

One of the symptoms of wisdom teeth you need to observe closely is bad breath. If you don’t have any problems with your mouth relating to it, immediately consult with an oral health professional. Since your wisdom teeth are located at the back of your mouth, they are not only difficult to clean, but they can also harbour bacteria from left food particles and create issues with smell.

Unpleasant taste 

Having a bad taste in your mouth is related to the symptom of bad breath since it attracts bacteria, leading to infections and the risk of tooth decay.

Sinus pain or pressure

Another way to know if your upper wisdom tooth is emerging is when you start to feel pain in your sinuses. The reason is because of the form of impaction, which puts pressure on your sinuses.

What Causes Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth are often impacted because their jaw size doesn’t match up with the size of their teeth (narrow jaw). Impacted wisdom teeth can be classified by their direction and how deep they’re positioned concerning other neighbouring teeth. Complete removal is usually recommended when a tooth is deeply rooted. If your treatment is complex, an oral surgeon may perform the surgery.

An initial consultation with your dentist is an advantage for observing emerging wisdom teeth, and they are usually screened during late adolescence. Screening commonly includes a clinical examination as well as x-rays such as panoramic radiographs.

There are several factors why a wisdom tooth may become impacted:

Mesial impaction 

It is the most common form of impacted wisdom teeth; the tooth is at the wrong angle, partially erupted and tilted toward the front of your mouth. Mesial impaction often causes pressure on the second molar (tooth inform of the wisdom tooth).

Horizontal impaction

It is when the wisdom tooth is positioned horizontally and is not yet fully erupting. This is probably the worst and is causing severe pain. If this tooth is not removed, it may eventually affect the neighbouring teeth as it has a risk of decay within the wisdom tooth and the teeth beside it.

Vertical impaction 

When the tooth still lies under the gums, the tooth has a hard time pushing through yet positions correctly. The tooth is coming in reasonably straight, which means extraction is rarely needed unless the erupted tooth is expected to cause overcrowding or if it is exerting too much pressure on the tooth root next to it.

Distal impaction 

Distal impacts are the least common of all tooth impacts. These teeth are angled and can sometimes be called “angular impaction”. A distal result is the opposite of a mesial impact because it tilts towards the back of the mouth rather than in front. The risk of extraction will depend on how far impacted or angled this tooth is and whether or not it is partially or fully impacted.

Learn More: Why Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth Painful?

When Should Impacted Wisdom Teeth Be Extracted?

Some people have asymptomatic wisdom teeth, or they can often go unnoticed until they start to have significant effects, so it is best to find out if your wisdom teeth are likely to cause a problem sooner rather than later.

When wisdom teeth are still in the process of forming when you’re a teenager, it is easier to perform wisdom tooth removal. Waiting until they have fully developed roots can make this process more complicated.

That is why dental health practitioners often advise people to have their wisdom teeth removed as soon as possible.

Risk of Not Removing Your Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Having a tooth extraction might not be anyone’s favorite dental procedure, but delaying it could result in some unpleasant consequences. Avoidance of surgery or if you wait for your impacted wisdom tooth to break through your gum line, you will often experience increased bleeding and gum infection, as well as an increased potential complication and chance of abscesses spreading to other parts of the jaw and neck. In rare cases, people can even die. Some patients also experience a possible relapse with orthodontics after their front teeth shift during extended periods without extracting the impacted teeth.

Learn More: Risk of Not Removing an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Final Thoughts

Impacted wisdom teeth are inevitable, but making a habit of regular dental appointments for checkups is an advantage. Your dentist is updated on the growth and emergence of your wisdom teeth. Routine updated X-rays may identify impacted wisdom teeth before any symptoms develop.

Suppose you start to observe symptoms of an emerging wisdom tooth in your mouth, like redness around your molar teeth and difficulty chewing food that indicate a possible impacted tooth. If these symptoms persist, wisdom teeth may get infected and cause harmful symptoms like swollen gums, bleeding or tenderness. Don’t hesitate to contact the dental clinic you visit!

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.