The last adult teeth to appear in the mouth -wisdom teeth - usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. You can have as many as 4 wisdom teeth – one at each end of your upper and lower arches – or none at all.
Since they emerge after the rest of our permanent teeth have already come in, it is quite common to have insufficient room in the jaw to accommodate their late arrival. As a result, your wisdom teeth may not erupt fully due to obstruction by a neighbouring tooth, fail to emerge at all or emerge out of alignment. When that happens, your wisdom tooth has suffered an impaction.
When the impacted wisdom tooth forces its way into a space that wasn’t created for it, it can push neighbouring teeth out of alignment or crowd together, leading to a host of dental maladies including oral pain, infection and bone damage.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptom of pain is usually the first warning sign for patients to see their dentists. However, you should not wait until after the pain has set in to get your wisdom teeth checked. If you are concerned about a potential flare-up caused by an impacted wisdom tooth, you should get your wisdom teeth evaluated by a dentist as early as possible.
That said, if you are currently experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms, you may already have an impacted wisdom tooth.
Swollen, Red or Bleeding Gums: When the wisdom tooth gets impacted, the gum may become inflamed, becoming red and tender. Swollen and bleeding gums are quite common especially occurring as the infection swells and drains.
Pain In & Around the Jaw: A partially erupted wisdom tooth can create pockets of spaces that become a breeding ground for bacteria. It may end up causing an infection that results in headaches and jaw pain.
Difficulty Opening Mouth: Infection that occurs at the side of the jaw can result in locked jaw, making it difficult to open or close one’s mouth.
Unpleasant Taste in Mouth/Bad Breath: Bad breath is the other side effect of an impaction that comes from the food debris and bacteria trapped by an overlapping wisdom tooth. The drainage of an infection can also leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth
The best time to assess the potential risks of wisdom tooth impaction is in your late teens or early 20s, just when your wisdom teeth are starting to emerge. Using diagnostic equipment like x-rays, the dentist is in a best position to determine the growth patterns of your wisdom teeth and assess whether they pose a future risk.
A good reason for getting your wisdom teeth checked early is because the removal procedure can get more complicated as you grow older. That’s because the bone around your wisdom tooth becomes denser with age. This significantly increases the operative risks, while making the procedure more complex and patient-involved. It also takes older patients a longer time to heal after the procedure.
Even if your wisdom teeth are not currently giving you any problems, you may choose to remove them while young to avoid future complications and potentially painful episodes. Conversely, some wisdom teeth do not play any significant role or function thus removing them while it is still safe and easy to do so may be a wise move to prevent future problems .
If you suspect the possibility of a wisdom tooth impaction, it’s perhaps time to get a professional evaluation – and to check if removal would be a good option. Please contact Sailors Bay Dentistry at (02) 9958 0400.