Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Signs of Trouble

Wisdom teeth, the third molars, are the last adult teeth to come in between the ages of 17 and 21. When a wisdom tooth is unable to fully break through (mostly because there’s not enough room in the mouth), it is said to be “impacted.” The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons or AAOMS, says that nine out of ten people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.

When does my wisdom tooth become a problem?

A wisdom tooth may grow sideways, tilted in your jaw. Some may emerge only partially or remain completely trapped under the gum and bone. Wisdom teeth becomes a problem when they push on the neighboring molars causing damage and infection. They are also more vulnerable to decay because this area of the mouth can be difficult to clean. In some cases, wisdom teeth may grow in a sac within the jaw and become filled with fluid, developing a cyst that may gouge the jawbone and damage the nerves of the adjacent teeth.

How do I know if my wisdom teeth are impacted?

An impacted tooth can be painless, showing no symptoms. However, when it becomes infected (pericoronitis) or starts causing other dental problems, you may experience some of these signs and symptoms:

  • Pain or swelling of the gums or jaw bone
  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Difficulty opening your jaw
  • Prolonged headache
  • Bad breath
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

According to a study by the AAOMS and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation, wisdom teeth that come in normally may still be susceptible to disease. AAOMS advises that the third molars be assessed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon by the time a patient is a young adult. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are specially trained to evaluate wisdom teeth, disease status and suggest patient-specific treatment plan.

How about you? How was your wisdom teeth experience?

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