When you hear this word in our office, it is most likely that we are talking about your wisdom teeth. And while we know that it may sound scary to have “impacted wisdom teeth”, we want you to know that actually it is very common condition to have.
What Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Throughout evolutionary history, human mouths (jaws) have become increasingly smaller. While the jaws have gotten smaller, the amount of teeth we have has not. So now we have the same amount of teeth squeezing into a smaller space. Because wisdom teeth are the last to erupt, they often become impacted – that is, blocked by the other teeth around them. Often they are growing sideways or unable to erupt through the gums at all due to crowding.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Need Removal?
The inability to erupt properly means that wisdom teeth can cause a lot of pain and even become infected down the road. This is the main reason that we recommend the removal of all third molars (another name for wisdom teeth). The reason that we remove them during the teen years is that the bone is still soft and recovery from the surgery is taken by the patient much better at this age. If we were to wait, your teeth may become infected, your bite crooked, and it may be too late at some point for us to take them out.
Types of Impaction:
There are four main types of wisdom tooth impactions. These four types have varying degrees of severity with some possibly not needing removal! Here are the four kinds of wisdom tooth impactions:
In this case, the tooth is unable to break through the gum line. In many cases, this tooth removal is unnecessary as the tooth grows in a normal alignment. Sometimes, removal is necessary if it will cause pain or future oral health complications. Vertical impaction is very common.
Angled toward the front of the mouth, the tooth is probably pushing on its neighbor, causing pain and crowding. How severe the angle determines the amount of pain and malalignment caused by the tooth. The more angled towards your other teeth, the worse it will be overall. This type of impaction is the most common.
This tooth is angled toward the rear of the mouth. This impaction acts almost like the exact opposite of a mesial impaction but could cause issues if tooth root structures are too close. A dentist may wait up to 2 years to determine the best course of action as many distal impactions can remain in the mouth without any long-term health effects. This is the least common type of impaction for wisdom teeth.
In this case, the tooth is a complete 90 degrees from where it should be, and is likely growing into the roots of its neighboring tooth. Arguably, this is the worst form of impaction. This is because the removal process is one of the most complicated because of how deep the tooth structure is within the mouth. Whilst not super common, these impactions are also not uncommon. These types of impactions must be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid any complications.
What Is Wisdom Tooth Extraction Like?
The good news is, the removal of all different types of wisdom tooth impactions is no challenge for an oral surgeon! This procedure is the most common you come across as oral surgery. What that means is procedures are quick and easy. With the help of sedatives, the procedure is also pain-free! You will also be sent home with instructions for pain management, eating, and rest orders.
What Is Extraction Recovery Like?
You will recover comfortably at home. You can start drinking liquids and soft foods as soon as you feel ready but should avoid crunchy foods, extra hot or cold items, and straws (NO STRAWS!). You can expect to resume some of your normal activities a few days post-operation.
Do You Have Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Having worked with patients with severe cases and mild cases, Dr. William F. Lane is a top-notch expert in the removal of any impacted wisdom tooth. If you have any questions about wisdom teeth removal or aren’t sure if you even need the procedure, schedule an appointment today with one of our two Lane Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery offices in Massachusetts – in Plymouth, MA or Sandwich, MA!
Impacted Wisdom Teeth, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/symptoms-causes/syc-20373808
Timeline: Human Evolution, New Scientist, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9989-timeline-human-evolution/