What Happens When Wisdom Teeth Become Impacted?

What Happens When Wisdom Teeth Become Impacted?

Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars that grow in, typically after age 17. Most people have two on the top and bottom.

The wisdom teeth become impacted when there isn’t enough room to grow. Overcrowding in the mouth causes them to grow in unexpected ways.

Impaction causes any tooth to fail to reach its normal position because of other teeth, tissues, or bones. They can be partial or complete, but both are known to cause dental complications, tooth damage, and pain.

If wisdom teeth are left impacted, the issue can raise your risk of experiencing tooth decay, gum disease, and infection.

When wisdom teeth cause dental complications or are painful, they are typically removed. If there are no immediate issues with the growth of these third molars, your dentist may take a wait-and-see approach before deciding to remove one or more of them. 

What Are the Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

Everyone experiences wisdom tooth growth a little differently. If they grow as expected with enough room, you might only feel discomfort as they rise through the gums.

If the wisdom teeth become impacted, some uncomfortable symptoms can develop. You will want to speak with your dentist immediately if you experience any of the following issues. []

  • Gums that are tender, red, and swollen, with a tendency to bleed.
  • Swelling and redness that appears around the jaw.
  • Radiating or throbbing pain at the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) or the impacted tooth’s location.
  • A bad taste in your mouth or persistent bad breath.
  • Noticeable tooth decay or damage to the teeth next to the impacted wisdom tooth.
  • Headaches or swollen areas that feel hot to the touch.

Some people can develop cysts, tumors, or sores at or around the site where the wisdom tooth becomes impacted. Do not try to rupture any growths because an infection could spread. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for an evaluation to develop a treatment plan that works to eliminate your unwanted symptoms.

What Are the Causes of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

A wisdom tooth becomes impacted when there isn’t enough space for it in a person’s jaw. That causes it to develop or erupt abnormally, creating the unwelcome and usually painful symptoms that cause people to seek treatment.

Wisdom teeth can be wholly or partially impacted.

A partial impaction happens when the third molar comes through the gum enough to have its crown visible, but the remainder of the tooth stays beneath the gums.

With a full impaction, the tooth never emerges from the gums, staying completely hidden.

Four different impaction types are possible with wisdom teeth, and it is not unusual for patients to experience more than one of them.

  • Horizontal Impaction. This issue occurs when a fully impacted wisdom tooth positions itself sideways beneath the gumline. 
  • Vertical Impaction. The wisdom tooth is positioned to erupt appropriately with this condition, but it stays within the jawbone.
  • Distal Impaction. When this issue develops, the affected tooth grows at an angle toward the back of the mouth.
  • Mesial Impaction. This condition causes the wisdom tooth to grow toward the second molar. 

Up to 70% of the population has at least one wisdom tooth that becomes impacted. []

How to Manage the Pain of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Pain is the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong and requires your attention. When wisdom teeth cause discomfort, it is essential to find the reason why and treat that cause while looking at the tooth’s possible removal.

If a wisdom tooth has been impacted for a few months, the pain a patient experiences could be due to cavities or tooth decay. The only way to alleviate those symptoms is to treat any infection and address the condition.

Some impacted wisdom teeth get close to the gum’s surface, causing the outer layer to become red, inflamed, and painful. After treating the infection, the most common treatment method is to extract the problematic tooth.

Immediate relief can come from NSAID over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Home remedies that sometimes work include saltwater rinses, clove oil, peppermint, tea tree oil, aloe vera, or crushed ginger. []

If you have noticeable swelling around the jaw, try applying cold packs or a heating pad to the area for relief. 

Recovering After Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Wisdom teeth extraction is usually considered outpatient surgery. You’ll arrive at the treatment site and leave on the same day. If sedation or local anesthesia is selected for this procedure, you will typically wake up in the treatment chair.

If given a general anesthetic, you might be taken to a recovery room. Your dentist will speak with you about what option to expect on the day of your treatment. []

After waking up, you’ll start to regain feeling in your mouth. Some swelling and a bit of pain are normal. During the first day, you might notice some blood. You’ll receive care instructions before leaving, but you can typically place an ice pack on your face as soon as possible. 

Most people can resume most activities the same after having their wisdom teeth extracted. You’ll want to avoid anything that could disrupt the blood clots or tear your stitches. 

It helps to drink plenty of fluids, but not from a straw. Try to avoid hot foods that could burn the treatment area and items that could get stuck in the hole where your wisdom teeth were. []

Many people recover from wisdom tooth surgery in a few days, even with a complete impaction. It can sometimes take up to two weeks before you’re ready to manage your entire daily routine.

Should I Get My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom tooth removal is a decision to make with your dentist. If they don’t come in as expected, the typical recommendation is to have them removed.

Even if they don’t erupt, the impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems for your jawbone, nearby teeth, and surrounding tissues.

If you’re experiencing pain right now, contact our team at On Point Dental to get your evaluation scheduled right away. We offer same-day appointments,  working with you to develop a treatment plan to resolve an issue with your wisdom teeth permanently.