Wisdom teeth become impacted if they don’t have room to grow in normally, and tend to emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. Sometimes they partially emerge, and may grow at an angle.
Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to dental complications and are usually removed, even before complications arise. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent impacted wisdom teeth, but understanding the symptoms and complications of wisdom teeth impaction can help determine the best course of action for treatment.
Are My Wisdom Teeth Impacted?
Generally, if you have impacted wisdom teeth, you’ll notice. Symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth most commonly include:
- Gums that are red, tender, swollen, or bleeding
- Jaw pain
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad breath or unpleasant mouth taste
- Difficulty opening your mouth or chewing
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Infections in your mouth
However, sometimes wisdom teeth can cause problems even if they aren’t actively triggering pain or discomfort. Wisdom teeth without symptoms could still be the cause of infection or disease. The older you are or the longer you’ve had your wisdom teeth, the more likely you are to suffer from complications of impacted or partially impacted wisdom teeth.
Complications of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
- Damage to other teeth. If they push against others or put pressure on the jaw.
- Cysts or infections. Sometimes, the wisdom teeth create a fluid-filled sac that can cause damage to the jawbone and eventually develop into a benign tumor.
- Tooth decay. Wisdom teeth can decay at a higher rate if they are impacted, especially because food and bacteria can become trapped between the gum and tooth.
- Gum disease. Wisdom teeth can cause gum inflammation and infections that ultimately lead to gum disease.
Treatments and Procedures
Generally, having your wisdom teeth removed when they first come in, or before they’ve come in completely, can help reduce your risk of wisdom teeth-related problems that can occur later.
Wisdom teeth are removed with either a local anesthetic, sedation anesthetic (which reduces consciousness), or general anesthesia (which makes you lose consciousness, or “sleep,” during the procedure). Recovery takes a few days to a week, and varies between individuals.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent impacted wisdom teeth; however, seeing your dentist every 6 to 12 months can help reduce your risk of complications from wisdom teeth, and help prevent any additional issues before they arise.