Wisdom teeth are the last four of your 32 teeth to erupt. According to Miami-based oral surgeons Dr. Jeffrey Blum and Dr. Eduardo Nicolaievsky via email, these teeth generally appear between the ages of 17 to 25. When one of these teeth doesn't have enough room to come in normally, it is considered impacted. Teeth may become twisted, tilted, or displaced as they try to emerge.
According to Blum and Nicolaievsky, there are several degrees of impacted wisdom teeth, based on where the teeth lie within the jaw. Soft tissue impaction occurs when the crown of the tooth has penetrated through the bone, but the gum is still covering part of the tooth. When the tooth has partially erupted, but a part of the tooth remains submerged in the jawbone, this is considered partial bony impaction. Complete bony impaction occurs when the tooth is entirely encased by jawbone.
Impacted wisdom teeth do not always show symptoms, meaning you could have impacted teeth and not even realize it. If symptoms do arise, it is usually the result of the gum on top of the tooth becoming infected or swollen. Symptoms may include pain, swollen and bleeding gums, swelling around the jaw, bad breath, headache or jaw ache, and an unpleasant taste when eating. Some people experience stiffness of the jaw or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Should you experience any of these impacted wisdom tooth symptoms, visit your dentist. Impacted wisdom teeth that are left untreated can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. You may also experience damage to your other teeth, including infection and overcrowding of teeth. In rare cases, impacted wisdom teeth can cause cysts and tumors.
Annual dental appointments and x-rays can catch impacted teeth early before they start to show symptoms. Your dentist will most likely recommend surgery to remove the impacted teeth.