If you have recently been told that you need to be treated for impacted wisdom teeth, you may be wondering what this term means and what the treatment entails. The fact is that wisdom teeth are also referred to as third molars. Molars are the larger, flat teeth that are found toward the back of the mouth, and wisdom teeth are rear teeth located in the farthest point back in the mouth. Wisdom teeth are appropriately named because they are typically the last teeth to erupt. In most individuals, they erupt between the ages of 18 and 24, but there is considerable variation outside of this range that is normal. When teeth do not fully erupt, they are termed as being impacted.
Different Types of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
There are several different ways that wisdom teeth may be impacted. When you visit the dentist, you may hear the dentist and hygienist speak about impacted teeth that are described as being bony, soft tissue, horizontal, vertical, distal or mesial. These terms refer to the position of the teeth in the gum or jaw bone as well as how much of the teeth have erupted. The teeth may not be erupted at all, or they may be partially erupted. Often, they are coming in sideways, and this can cause the individual to feel pain and pressure. In addition, when these teeth do not erupt in the anticipated location, they may also press against other permanent teeth. This ultimately can result in movement of the permanent teeth that may need to be remedied with orthodontic treatments. Because of the cosmetic and pain issues associated with impacted wisdom teeth, removal is often the best course of action to take.
When Removal of Impacted Teeth Is Necessary
It is estimated that between one-half to three-quarters of all individuals will have at least one of their wisdom teeth impacted. There are four wisdom teeth total, including two in the upper rear section of the mouth and two in the lower rear section of the mouth. Any one of these teeth or all of them may be impacted, and the dentist can determine if they are impacted with an x-ray and a visual examination of the mouth. Not all impacted teeth will require surgical removal. Your dental professional may consider factors like the risk of infection, if there is pain present, if the impacted teeth are affecting the patient’s cosmetic appearance and other factors. Some individuals are able to live with impacted teeth for their entire lives without the need for removal.
The Removal Process
The surgical removal of wisdom teeth is most often a day surgery event, and it may take several hours to complete. In most cases, the individual will receive general anesthesia so that he or she is not awake during the procedure. The amount of time the procedure takes and the amount of pain experienced will be affected by the size of the tooth, the shape of the roots, how deeply the root and teeth are impacted and other related factors. The most difficult teeth to extract are those deeply embedded in the bone and that have an unusually shaped root. More trauma may be inflicted on the root and jaw bone when extracting these types of wisdom teeth. Generally, patients should expect to go home the same day, but they may be experience pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty eating for several days after the event. Because of this, most will prefer to remain home to heal for several days after an extraction.
Impacted wisdom teeth are common, and many individuals will need one or more of their wisdom teeth surgically removed. If you have been told that you have impacted wisdom teeth, inquire about the type of surgery that is required, the benefits and the side effects. This will help you to determine the best course of action.