The third molars located at the back of the mouth are commonly referred to as wisdom teeth. They are the last teeth to emerge, and most people have two on the top and two on the bottom of their mouth. Most people get their wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25. In some cases, people get their wisdom teeth without any problem; however, for most people, there is not enough room for these teeth to push through the gum or to develop properly. When this happens, the tooth becomes trapped or impacted.
Can Impacted Wisdom Teeth Be Prevented?
There is no way to prevent wisdom teeth from becoming impacted. Regular dental checkups enable a dentist to monitor the development and emergence of wisdom teeth. Updated dental X-rays can also allow the dentist to identify an impacted wisdom tooth before it becomes symptomatic.
Symptoms of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth:
A wisdom tooth may be fully impacted and never erupt through the gums. If the tooth emerges so that a portion of the crown is visible, it is considered partially impacted. Since the tooth is crowded, it may grow at an unnatural angle, which can cause significant discomfort. Symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth include;
• Jaw Pain and Swelling
• Difficulty Opening the Mouth
• Red or Swollen Gums
• Bleeding or Tender Gums
Because these teeth can be difficult to clean, they are more prone to decay and gum disease than other teeth. Persistent bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth can be an indication of infection or another serious problem. In some instances, an impacted tooth can develop inside a sac or cyst within the jawbone. This cyst can fill with fluid and ultimately damage the surrounding bone, teeth, and nerves. A dental X-ray can confirm the presence of impacted wisdom teeth.
Treatment for Impacted Wisdom Teeth:
Even if a person is not currently experiencing symptoms from an impacted wisdom tooth, a dentist or oral surgeon may recommend that it be removed to prevent potential problems down the road. Wisdom teeth extraction is an outpatient procedure that is performed using local anesthesia and, in some cases, sedation to help the patient remain calm. The dentist or oral surgeon will then make an incision in the gum in order to remove any bone that is blocking access to the tooth root. Once the tooth is successfully removed, the dentist will close the incision with stitches and use gauze to pack the empty socket. Patients may experience some swelling and pain following wisdom teeth extraction, but these symptoms are usually easily managed with cold compresses and pain relievers.
Advice for Nervous Patients:
It is natural to feel some level of nervousness and anxiety over the thought of having a tooth removed. Many patients find that they can ease their anxiety by listening to their favorite music, watching a video, or even having a friend or family member on hand for support. In extreme cases, a dentist can recommend medications or particular sedation techniques that help alleviate the fear.