Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are generally some of the first teeth that will need to come out. They are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25.
They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom) near the entrance to the throat. In most cases, there is not enough space in the mouth to accommodate the wisdom teeth and allow them to become fully functional.
When this happens, the tooth can become impacted – contributing to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly tumours or cysts.
It is also important to note that it is not just wisdom teeth that sometimes become impacted and need to be removed. Other teeth such as the cuspids and bicuspids can become impacted and can cause the same types of issues as impacted wisdom teeth.
Improper positions of impacted wisdom teeth
There are a few important terms used to describe the improper angulation of wisdom teeth.
- Mesial: this term is used when the tooth is angled forward, toward the front of the mouth. This is the most prevalent type of wisdom tooth impaction
- Vertical: while the wisdom tooth grew in at the correct angle, it is still unable to break through the gum line and is stuck behind your other molar
- Distal: this term is used to describe wisdom teeth that are angled towards the back of the mouth
- Horizontal (aka traverse): this occurs when the tooth is angled sideways at a full 90 degrees and grows into the roots of the molar next to it. Basically, the tooth is lying on its side
Symptoms of wisdom tooth extraction
When your teeth cannot erupt properly through the bone or gum, a flap of gum tissue, or operculum that covers the tooth becomes difficult to clean properly. When food or bacteria gathers in these areas, chronic swelling and sometimes infection can occur. Pericoronitis, which is the swelling of the gum flap, is very painful and makes chewing difficult.
Signs and symptoms include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Bad breath
- Strange taste in the mouth
- Red and swollen gums
- Swollen jaw
- Bleeding gums