We’ve probably all heard the term “impacted wisdom teeth” used in terms of someone else’s teeth. We groan, make a sympathetic face, and feel relieved that they had to learn what that word really meant in terms of their oral health rather than us. If you don’t know what impacted means, however, you can’t really understand just how important it is to talk to your dentist about your wisdom teeth. When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it’s time to act quickly to avoid an oral-health emergency.
What Exactly Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Impacted wisdom teeth are wisdom teeth that did not grow into your mouth “normally” like your other teeth. Usually, this means they are underdeveloped and/or growing in a weird position rather than sticking straight up into your mouth and having fully “erupted,” which just means they grew into your mouth to the extent they should have. They may grow sideways, not grow in at all, or only show the very tips in your mouth. Some impacted wisdom teeth can even grow into your jawbone!
A lot of patients think that if they cannot see their wisdom teeth, those teeth do not represent a problem. Unfortunately, impacted wisdom teeth seldom remain both out of sight and out of mind because they tend to cause painful infections and can even knock your healthy teeth out of alignment. Impacted wisdom teeth also contribute to tooth decay and gum disease even if you can’t see them.
So, if you can’t see those teeth, how will you know if your wisdom teeth are impacted? Easy! Just ask your dentist. If they have an X-ray machine in the office, they will be able to easily get a shot of your mouth – including the parts below your gums – and let you know how your wisdom teeth are positioned. In fact, they might even be able to let you know that you do not even have wisdom teeth and can stop worrying about them!
That’s right: Some people do not have a full set of wisdom teeth, and a few have none at all. You do not really need them; two sets of molars is plenty to keep you chewing happily and effectively, thanks to modern dental care.
If your wisdom teeth are impacted but are not yet causing you any pain, you can create an action plan with your dentist for monitoring or even preemptively removing these teeth to keep your mouth healthy. And if you have serious pain, red or swollen gums, jaw pain, bad breath, difficulty opening your mouth, or a chronic bad taste in your mouth, well, then you might have found the cause. Dr. Pat Crawford offers X-ray services and consultations on dealing with wisdom teeth at his practice in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Visit our website and make an appointment today.