What Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
As adults, we have 32 permanent teeth in our mouth. Of those teeth, the last four to arrive are our wisdom teeth, which make their appearance anywhere between the age of 15 to 25. For many of us, these teeth arrive with little fanfare, but some of us struggle with a painful condition called impaction, which means that the wisdom teeth were not able to grow it successfully. If you have impacted wisdom teeth, then we here at Arrowhead Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery need to inspect your teeth to determine if you need surgical intervention to get rid of the pain and prevent complications.
The Four Types of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Many people have heard horror stories from friends about their own experience with impacted wisdom teeth, causing many misconceptions about this condition. It’s a common belief that because someone has impacted wisdom teeth, they need to be rushed into emergency surgery to treat it. The reality is that not all types of impacted wisdom teeth require prompt surgery, and the type of impaction that you may be experiencing will determine how we will treat it.
Of all the types of impaction, the least common type is called distal impaction. This one occurs when your tooth is pointed toward the back of your mouth. Depending on the angle of the tooth, we may decide to extract it, or we may wait and monitor it before treatment. If the angle is around 0 degrees, it may erupt (break through your gums) normally or come out at a slight angle. If the angle is more severe, we may then decide to remove it, as it may never erupt properly.
On the other hand, the most common type of impaction is mesial impaction. It’s the opposite of a distal impaction, as it doesn’t face the back of the mouth, but rather toward the front of your mouth. This is another “wait and see” type of impaction, and the angle of the tooth will determine if we decide to remove it. They may erupt partially, or they may erupt normally. We will remove it if we determine that it’s at risk for impaction or only partial eruption.
Vertical impaction occurs when the tooth is aligned vertically with your other teeth. It may be touching the nearby teeth, or almost touch them. We very rarely have to remove a vertically impacted wisdom tooth, as it is highly likely to erupt normally, but if we do, it’s because it’s causing pressure on the nearby molar.
The worst kind of wisdom tooth impaction is called horizontal impaction. These are extremely painful and occur when your wisdom tooth is impacted and is on its side. It will not erupt normally, and it will press painfully against the tooth next to it. If we don’t remove it, it can cause lasting damage to your other teeth. Sometimes the impaction is so severe; we have to remove a little bit of bone, too.
Signs of wisdom tooth impaction include a swollen jaw, bleeding, and pain. Headaches and swollen glands and neck pain may also occur. If you suspect that you may have impacted wisdom teeth, it’s critical that you call us right away for an appointment here at Arrowhead Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at (623) 738-2564 today to determine the severity of it and to treat it before it gets worse.