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Impacted Wisdom Teeth 

What is an impacted wisdom tooth?

Wisdom teeth, called third molars, are adult teeth in the back of the mouth that are the last to emerge and develop.  Most adults have four of them, two on each jaw.  Unfortunately, many people don’t have jaws large enough to accomodate these teeth.  Because of this spatial restriction, these teeth are prevented from erupting fully, trapped (or impacted) within the jaw.

How do I know if I have an impacted wisdom tooth?

A routine x-ray can show you the development of your wisdom teeth.  Your dentist will evaluate your jaw and teeth, and will assess whether your teeth are capable of growing (or erupting) safely.  If they determine that your wisdom teeth are impacted, they may recommend removing it to prevent overcrowding and misaligning teeth.

3 types of impacted wisdom teeth

  • Soft Tissue Impaction— When gum tissue covers some or all of your wisdom tooth as it erupts, which is very difficult to clean, allowing periodontal disease to easily develop.
  • Partial Bony Impaction— When part of your wisdom tooth erupts while a portion stays below the gum, as it grows against another tooth. Again, periodontal disease can easily develop in conditions like this.
  • Complete Bony Impaction— When your wisdom tooth is completely embedded in your jaw and is positioned in such a way that requires surgical removal, it should be carefully evaluated by a dentist to determine if an extraction is necessary.  Such a tooth may never erupt on its own.

My dentist recommended I remove my wisdom teeth.  What if I choose to keep them instead?

If the position of your wisdom teeth are correct, and home oral hygiene can be maintained, then the dentist may determine that an extraction may not be necessary.  If a disease progression is present or the position creates a unhealthy environment, the dentist will inform you of extraction recommendations. 

Wisdom Teeth Extractions →

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.