Besides grinding food, your teeth have two more primary functions: helping you speak and shaping your face. While grinding food, pre-molars and first molars are the ones that take 90% of the load. It implies the second and third molars share less than 10% of the chewing load. The most common reason is the low probability of the third molars emerging in their usual place.
What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
Dentists may term any tooth incapable of attaining its pre-determined position as an impacted tooth. Tooth impaction is an extreme or abnormal situation in which the tooth fails to obtain its normal functional position.
It leads to inadequacies in their role and also poses a threat to the whole dentition. Such conditions are prevalent with third molars and are called impacted wisdom teeth. Individuals consider a person being mature and wise from 17 to 24 years. Hence, the name for the third molar emerging concurrently in the mouth.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
There are certain signs and symptoms that indicate you may be suffering from impacted wisdom teeth. You may face food lodgement in the lower wisdom tooth area, and cavities in lower second molars at the site of impaction. Sometimes, they may show no symptoms but still have an abnormality like a cyst or periapical lesion. They may not be visible clinically but are appreciable on the diagnostic radiographs. Hence, a regular visit to a dentist can shield you from the need for an emergency dentist at odd times.
Difference Between Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms are the expressions exhibited typically to the specific ailment. You can consider it a warning mechanism in which the body signals the occurrence of an abnormality. This is so that the immune system can begin its function and eliminate the factors affecting the spread of disease.
Generally, symptoms are indications of any disease felt and experienced exclusively by the suffering patient, such as pain or difficulty in swallowing. Symptoms are typically only measurable by the sufferer.
Signs are objective expressions of the disease. A person other than the sufferer can quantify them. Typically, doctors can understand them while examining to verify and co-relate with the patient’s symptoms.
Below are the most common signs and symptoms you may experience if you have an impacted wisdom tooth:
- Pain is the main presenting complaint in over two-thirds of individuals with an impacted third molar. Moreover, if you have recurrent pain accompanied by swelling around the hindmost region, the odds of you suffering from an impacted third molar are much higher.
- One more common occurrence is locally inflamed gums surrounding the slightly visible last molar. This tissue is occasionally reddened and feels sore, known as Pericoronitis.
- There can be various causes of sensitive teeth but sensitivity to cold due to tooth decay in the third molar is a common finding in partially erupted third molars. It may be one of the initial symptoms of a decaying wisdom tooth.
- The tooth decay can progress into the central hollow part comprising nerves and blood vessels, the dental pulp. Subsequently, pus is formed due to the extension of decay and inflamed gums. This purulent discharge may produce an unpleasant taste.
- Another usual scenario is food being trapped between the penultimate molar and a partially erupted, obliquely inclined wisdom tooth. It causes decay and pain in the second molar, and food lodgement behind it.
- You may experience bad breath that can easily be correlated to the food lodgement between the last molars.
- At times, a repeated injury is caused upon the neighbouring tissue due to the abnormal placement of the tooth. As a consequence, one can encounter bleeding of gums around the last molars with impacted wisdom teeth,
- The inflamed gums around the wisdom teeth swell, and consequently, the swelling extends into the adjacent jaw muscles that cause difficulty in chewing and eventually, results in limited mouth opening.
- Further, the swelling can extend into the throat muscles making it difficult to swallow food. It can occur in advanced conditions and can affect airway passage, a life-threatening complication.
- Unexplained facial pain is a possible symptom, although a rare occurrence. Yet fewer individuals suffer from it.
Sometimes, if the dentist cannot assess the wisdom tooth in the oral examination for the diagnosis, a radiograph is made. Root resorptions, cysts or tumors can be detected. Studies have found that less than 6% of impacted wisdom teeth cases have cysts and tumours.
What Are The Chances of Your Wisdom Teeth Being Impacted?
Studies suggest the occurrence of impacted wisdom teeth ranges from 1 in 6 to 4 in 6 individuals.2 Research based on a study3 for worldwide prevalence found 24.4% of individuals with impacted wisdom teeth. That infers one in four individuals can suffer from impacted wisdom teeth.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth Removal
Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is the ideal and highly recommended suggestion to treat the pathological progression. Dentists commonly evaluate and categorize the condition based on tooth position, age of the patient, health status. The treatment is also based on the knowledge and experience of the dental surgeon, and surgical equipment used.Dentists usually estimate upon the overlying tissue, if it’s a soft tissue impaction, covered partially with bone, or fully bony impaction. Further, they consider the difficulty in impacted teeth removal based on Vertical, Mesioangular, Horizontal, Distoangular, Buccoangular, and Linguoangular positions. Mesioangular impaction is relatively less complex for removal.
Complications Following Surgical Extraction
As with any surgery, wisdom teeth removal may also pose certain risks and complications. Some common complications following third molar extractions include dry socket, infection, uncontrolled hemorrhage, trismus, oro‑antral fistula, and nerve damage leading to paresthesia.
Extraction of Impacted Wisdom Tooth
If you encounter a wisdom tooth-related problem, it is wise to visit a dental office at the earliest. Also, the position of the wisdom tooth is crucial as the infection can involve adjacent structures. Eventually, it can cause serious ramifications with the need for more complex treatment procedures.
- Broadbent JM. Chewing and occlusal function. Funct Orthod. 2000 Oct-Dec;17(4):34-9. PMID: 11307270.
- Hashemipour MA, Tahmasbi-Arashlow M, Fahimi-Hanzaei F. Incidence of impacted mandibular and maxillary third molars: a radiographic study in a Southeast Iran population. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2013 Jan 1;18(1):e140-5. doi: 10.4317/medoral.18028. PMID: 23229243; PMCID: PMC3548634.
- Carter K, Worthington S. Predictors of Third Molar Impaction: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Dent Res. 2015 Nov 11. pii: 0022034515615857. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PubMed PMID: 26561441.
- Samsudin, A. R., & Mason, D. A. (1994). Symptoms from impacted wisdom teeth. British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 32(6), 380–383. doi:10.1016/0266-4356(94)90029-9