Have you been paying attention to your wisdom teeth? If not, you need to start. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, studies indicate that 90 percent of people have at least one wisdom tooth that is impacted, or unable to erupt through the gums in an upright, functional position. With such a large percentage of the population experiencing this condition, it is important that you know how to recognize the symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth.
Symptoms of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
The last teeth to form and erupt in the mouth, wisdom teeth are also called third molars. They are located in the very back of the mouth. Most people have four wisdom teeth that come in sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. For some, these teeth emerge without issue, and they are able to keep their wisdom teeth. However, because wisdom teeth can be a challenge to keep clean and healthy, these people have to be vigilant about their oral hygiene and dental checkups to avoid problems. Others have one or more wisdom teeth that are either trapped beneath the gums or unable to emerge properly. These impacted wisdom teeth generally need to be removed.
Identifying Impacted Wisdom Teeth
How do you know if you have impacted wisdom teeth? Because these teeth are so prone to problems, dentists tend to keep a wary eye on them, so your dentist may spot the problem on an X-ray before you experience any symptoms. If no issues are evident on your dental X-rays, you may discover that you have a problem when you begin experiencing symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth. These include the following:
- Constant pain in the back of the mouth
- Pain near the molars when biting down or chewing
- An unpleasant taste
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Red, tender, or swollen gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Swollen or tender glands in the neck or shoulder
- Discomfort when opening your mouth
While these symptoms can indicate that you have an impacted wisdom tooth, many of them can also serve as red flags for other dental dilemmas. If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s best to see your dentist as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment.
The Trouble with Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Why are impacted wisdom teeth a problem? They can cause a great deal of discomfort. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also create a potential health threat. Impacted wisdom teeth that remain beneath the surface of the gums can damage nearby teeth and push them out of alignment. If they are partially erupted, they can provide a pathway for infection to slip beneath the gum line and possibly enter the bloodstream. Wisdom teeth that come in sideways or at an odd angle cannot function properly, but they can damage or crowd adjacent teeth. They also make it difficult to clean the teeth. This can create a haven for bacteria, paving the way for infections and cavities. Sometimes, a cyst or tumor will form at the root of an impacted tooth. If this occurs, the growth can harm the surrounding nerves, teeth, and bone.
Removing an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
Dental professionals generally agree that it’s best to remove impacted wisdom teeth sooner rather than later. This is partly because the wisdom teeth in patients under the age of 20 tend to have roots that are less developed. The risk of complications is also lower for younger patients. Impacted wisdom teeth often have to be removed surgically by an oral surgeon. While the thought of undergoing surgery might be a bit unsettling, wisdom tooth extraction is a very common procedure.
Why do people have wisdom teeth? It’s likely that they are relics of a time when people lacked knowledge of effective dental hygiene practices and consumed foods that were coarser and harder to chew. As teeth fell out or wore down, wisdom teeth provided replacements. Now, it’s much less common for people to lose teeth, so these additional teeth can present problems.
Have you been experiencing the symptoms of an impacted wisdom tooth? Call your dentist for help. And if you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!