Impacted Wisdom Teeth

What is an impacted tooth?

For having such a grand and lofty name, wisdom teeth can behave quite foolishly. Wisdom teeth derive their name because of the time of their onset — after puberty, in early adulthood or late adolescence — during a time that we are allegedly “wiser.” However, because they arrive so late, many of us adapt just fine without these teeth. To complicate things further, wisdom teeth often arrive with painful fanfare and can become impacted, leading to pain and possible infection. When we encounter a patient here at Honest Oral Surgeon, we want to carefully monitor the progression of these teeth to help ensure that they come in healthy.

What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

While many wisdom teeth show up without pain or drama, for some of our patients, the onset of their wisdom teeth is a miserable experience. Wisdom teeth are prone to a condition known as impaction, which means that it will not erupt from your gums properly. When we have a patient who has an impacted wisdom tooth, we need to watch it closely to determine if it needs to be extracted.

A diagram half mouth X-ray with teeth impaction and half digital graphic highlighting impacted teeth

Types Of Impactions

There are four common types of wisdom tooth impaction. The most common type of impacted wisdom tooth is known as a mesial impaction. This type of impaction occurs when the tooth points toward the front of your mouth. During this type of impaction, it can hit the tooth next to it. When you have a mesial impaction, it may or may not erupt normally, which is largely dependent on the angle of the tooth. We will watch it to see if it erupts or if it needs to be extracted.

The least common type of wisdom tooth impaction, on the other hand, is called distal impaction. This type of impaction occurs when the tooth points away, toward the back of your mouth. Like mesial impaction, we will watch this tooth closely over the next one to two years. The angle of the tooth will again determine if it erupts normally or if it needs to be extracted.

A representation of a wisdom tooth impacted by soft tissue
Soft Tissue
An example of a wisdom tooth with a partial bony impactionPartial Bony
An illustration of a wisdom tooth completely impacted by boneComplete Bony

One type of impaction that rarely needs intervention from us is called vertical impaction. This happens when the tooth is almost aligned correctly but is still somehow unable to erupt properly on its own. Its chances of erupting normally are still very high, but we may decide to extract it if it starts causing problems with the surrounding teeth or seems like it will not erupt on its own after all.

Lastly, the most painful type of impaction is one called horizontal impaction. In horizontal impaction, the tooth is almost completely on its side, and it is pushing against the tooth next to it. It will not erupt on its own, and it can lead to extreme pain and discomfort. We will have to surgically remove this tooth because it will damage the teeth around it.

Find Out More About Wisdom Teeth Today!

Remember that wisdom teeth do not always cause problems for our patients and that complications with the eruption, while rare, can be quite painful. That is why regular appointments with check-ups at our office are so important. To learn more about wisdom teeth, impaction, and removal, or to schedule an appoint with us here at Honest Oral Surgeon, please give us a call at 949-298-4078 today!