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Problems Caused by Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Updated on December 19, 2016

"You have three impacted wisdom teeth" said the dentist pointing at the well lit x-ray in the examination room. As I looked at the x-ray I couldn't believe how teeth could grow like that under the gum's surface. One tooth was actually lying almost totally horizontally in a bizarre matter that almost appeared grotesque. The dentist later explained that that tooth had the potential of destroying one my molars by eroding away the bone.

Wisdom teeth are not that unusual, they are simply "third molars" that grow at the very back of the mouth. There are usually four wisdom teeth, two on the upper jaw and two on the bottom jaw. They may usually erupt, but if there is over crowding or if the individual has a small mouth they may remain under the gum (impacted). Wisdom teeth usually start growing at the age of nine. Then around age 14 they are done growing. In the later teens ages up to age 25 they may finally erupt, unless they remain impacted.

Impacted wisdom teeth remain trapped inside the bone mostly because the second molars do not allow them to erupt properly. When an impacted tooth pushes against the back of a second molar it often causes major damage called " contact erosion'. Such damage may cause unrestorable damage to the second molars and the procedure to attempt to restore the tooth may be complicated.

Impacted wisdom teeth may also cause gum infections. Bacteria may work its way near the second molars and work their way to the crown of the impacted teeth causing an infection. In such cases, the gums where the impacted wisdom teeth are may become inflamed and swollen. Often such symptoms may be confused with the actual wisdom teeth trying to work their way up the gum.

Such gum infections may later spread to the jaw sometimes even causing a bone infection that may go unnoticed for quite some time. In rare cases, such infections may involve the cheek or the neck. Affected wisdom teeth may cause fever, facial swelling, difficulty swallowing along with difficulty opening the mouth.

Impacted wisdom teeth must be removed when they are positioned badly or when causing problems. If you are over the age of 30 and your wisdom teeth have never caused you any problems it is unlikely they will cause any problems in the future. Consult with your dentist or get referred to an oral surgeon for an evaluation.

Wisdom teeth were very helpful when humans were hunters, eating a much tougher diet. Many centuries ago, humans had also much larger and longer jaws able to easily accommodate such teeth. Nowadays, jaws are much more smaller, yet wisdom teeth still appear. Such teeth may cause in some instances more nuisance than benefits, therefore, they are sometimes better off removed than left to harm the health of gums and other surrounding teeth..


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      Plum 8 years ago

      This is great info about wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are often fine, growing properly and not developing issues if they have enough room and are well cared for. But impaction and infection are common occurrences, and then they often have to be extracted. There are great answers for common questions about the extraction procedure here: