In the field of oral health there are fewer things more painful than impacted wisdom teeth. We always thought the pain of teething was reserved for early childhood, where we wouldn’t remember is discomfort into adulthood. But sadly, nature has conspired to save some of that pain for our early adult life, and has made it one of the worst things that can happen to your teeth. But what are wisdom teeth, and why do they become impacted?
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Become Impacted?
Despite it being an incredibly painful experience and a complex treatment, wisdom teeth become impacted for a very simple reason. For all of your other teeth, they tend to develop around the same time, and all arrange themselves in your mouth. Sometimes they will be quite tight, other times there will be gaps, but usually they will sort themselves out (sometimes with a bit of help!). Your wisdom teeth however develop much later in your life, usually in your late teens or early twenties. This presents problems, because your adult teeth are already grown and settled. Usually the wisdom teeth grow without problems, but sometimes there is just no room in your mouth for them to grow through the gums (also known as ‘erupting’), and so they grow at an angle or even sideways.
Symptoms Of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
There are a few different things that happen when your wisdom teeth become impacted. The most common symptom is pain in your jaw, particularly in the areas around your gums where the teeth are trying to break through. You might also get headaches that settle at the back of your head or at the sides, which can indicate problems with your wisdom teeth. A few people also experience problems chewing normally, struggling to open and close their mouths as they would usually. Changes in your mouth like reddening of the gums, swelling in your jaw, sudden bleeding gums and even newly occurring bad breath can also point towards impacted wisdom teeth. In short, if you start to notice changes in your mouth or experiencing jaw-based pain, it’s worth checking out.
Complications Of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When your wisdom teeth become impacted it can cause a lot of problems. The most common is overcrowding of the mouth, when wisdom teeth have to force their way up and affect their neighbouring teeth. This can cause angular growth and compression, or even infection in some cases. There are also varying degrees of impacted wisdom teeth, which can be difficult to deal with. Some wisdom teeth will manage to erupt through the gum line and a crown will be visible, while others lie beneath the gum line and are classed as ‘fully impacted’ If these teeth are left as they are, it can cause a number of complications for you. This includes things like permanent damage to the adjacent teeth, eroding enamel, pushing teeth out of their root or developing infection in sore areas. It can also be a secondary cause of gum disease and tooth decay, as these areas prove difficult and painful to clean properly. Perhaps the most severe complication of impacted wisdom teeth is the development of dental cysts. These occur because the wisdom teeth grow in a special sac located inside the jaw, and if the tooth becomes infected this can fill with fluid, leading to uncomfortable and painful cysts that can cause permanent nerve damage. If left untreated, these complications can lead to more serious issues, so it’s important you get them checked out as soon as possible.
Impacted wisdom teeth are never pleasant, and almost every one of you reading will know someone who has had issues with them. Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common dental procedures carried out in the UK, with cavity treatments coming in first place. The warning signs for impacted wisdom teeth start quite subtly, but they escalate quickly, and the best way to catch them is with routine dental check ups. If you’re not sure what your symptoms mean, always book an appointment with your dentist and describe your symptoms. For more advice or to book your consultation, just get in touch!