Complications of Impacted Wisdom Teeth: How to Prevent and Manage Them?

BY: Dr. Sandeep Sharma
Complications of Impacted Wisdom Teeth: How to Prevent and Manage Them

Complications of Impacted Wisdom Teeth: How to Prevent and Manage Them?

If you are like most people, you probably have heard horror stories about wisdom teeth removal. While it is true that the procedure can be a little uncomfortable, it is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, wisdom teeth removal is a necessary dental procedure because wisdom teeth complications are common, and they can often be avoided by having the teeth removed before they become problematic.

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Some have them later in their lives, or not at all, which should not cause oral health problems. In many cases, wisdom teeth come in without any issues. But for others, they can become impacted, get stuck under the gum line or partially erupt through the gums, which is why this condition is called impacted wisdom teeth.

This article will provide a clear understanding of impacted wisdom teeth, their risk factors, how to know you have them and their complications. At the end of this post, you can make more informed decisions about your oral health and wisdom teeth.

What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth are the third molars. They are the last teeth to come in and usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. Wisdom teeth were so named because they erupt at an age when wisdom is believed to be acquired. For some people, the third molars may erupt without any complication. It would almost be the same as the rest of the teeth. However, there are also instances wherein the wisdom teeth cannot erupt due to bone, gums or tissue blocking their path. These teeth are called impacted wisdom teeth.

An impacted wisdom tooth is a tooth that doesn’t have enough room to erupt into the mouth. Normally, when a wisdom tooth comes out, it cuts through the gum and bone, like the other teeth. In an impacted wisdom tooth, the tooth does not fully erupt through the gum line or only partially erupts. It can become stuck under the gum line or grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth. Impacted wisdom teeth are common, and they can cause various dental problems. 

What Are the Risk Factors of Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

In a six-year study published in 2011, 37.6% of oral health-related hospitalisations in Western Australia were due to impacted teeth removal. This means that impacted teeth are a significant oral health problem, and their extraction is often required to prevent further complications. 

The study concludes that the hospital-based removal of impacted teeth in Western Australia during those times is related to various factors, including age, gender, indigenous status, hospital access and insurance status.

What makes a person more prone to having impacted wisdom teeth? The following factors increase one’s risk of having impacted wisdom teeth.

  • Small Jawbone
    If your Jaw is too small to accommodate all 32 teeth, some of the teeth may become impacted. Some people are born with smaller jaw bones than usual, which is usually hereditary.

  • Crowded Teeth
    Crowded teeth may result from having a small jaw or big teeth. There is not enough space for all 32 teeth, so they push the other teeth surrounding them for them to erupt, resulting in crowded teeth and impacted wisdom teeth.

  • Misaligned Jaw
    If your upper and lower jaws do not meet evenly, it can cause misalignment. This can make it difficult for wisdom teeth to erupt through the gum line and may cause them to become impacted.

  • Family History
    If your parents or siblings had impacted wisdom teeth, you are more likely to have them. This is because it is usually a hereditary condition.

Signs and Symptoms of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Most of the time, impacted wisdom teeth do not cause any symptoms. You may not even know you have them until you go to the dentist for a routine check-up. However, sometimes, impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain and other problems. The following are signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Toothache.
    You may have a toothache if your wisdom tooth pushes on the adjacent tooth.

  • Swelling and redness.
    This may be due to the wisdom tooth pushing through the gums to erupt.

  • Difficulty opening your mouth.
    Since the area where the wisdom teeth erupt is close to the joint responsible for opening and closing the mouth, swelling and pain around this area can also affect the range of motion of the jaw, making it difficult to open the mouth.

  • Headache.
    The pain from the erupting wisdom tooth can radiate towards the head, causing headaches.

  • Bleeding gums.
    Partially erupted teeth harbour plaque easily since they are hard to clean. This can cause gum bleeding and other gum diseases.

  • Bad Breath.
    When an impacted wisdom tooth is impacted, plaque and food debris can accumulate around the area, causing bad breath.

Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history to diagnose an impacted wisdom tooth. They will examine your mouth, check your teeth and gums and feel for any lumps or swellings. If they suspect you have an impacted wisdom tooth, they may order X-rays or other imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Possible Complications of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, it is important to see a dentist because it can lead to complications such as:

1. Infection

An impacted tooth can cause an infection because it is difficult to clean. Since the wisdom teeth are far behind the mouth, they are hard to reach with a toothbrush and floss. As a result, food and bacteria can get trapped around the tooth, increasing the risk of having an infection.
An infection can cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Cysts
  • Tumours
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth
2. Cysts

An impacted wisdom tooth can sometimes lead to cyst formation. Each wisdom tooth develops surrounded by tissue sacs in the jawbone. When the tooth becomes impacted, this sac can fill with fluid, thus forming a cyst. This can cause pain, swelling and damage to nearby teeth, bones, and nerves.

3.  Tooth Decay

Since an impacted wisdom tooth can be difficult to clean, it is more likely to develop tooth decay.

4. Tumours

In rare cases, tumours may form around impacted wisdom teeth. It’s because the tissue around the tooth can become irritated and lead to tumour formation. These are usually benign (noncancerous), but they can still be dangerous if they grow large enough to damage the nearby teeth and jawbone.

Treatment Options for Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Treatment Options for Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth are third molars that cannot erupt normally due to gums, bones and teeth blocking their path. Some adults do not encounter any dental problems with their impacted wisdom teeth, but, in most cases, they may cause pain, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth. In some cases, they may also lead to cysts or tumours. If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, your dentist may recommend one of the following treatment options:

1. No treatment

If the impacted wisdom tooth is not causing any problem or the tooth’s position is too deep, and the risk of its removal outweighs the benefit, your dentist may suggest no treatment. However, continuous monitoring is needed. Check-ups and X-rays must be taken every six months.

2. Surgery

A surgical extraction is an ideal treatment for impacted wisdom teeth causing pain, infection and other dental problems. The procedure may last 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the number of teeth that need to be removed, and recovery may take at least two weeks. It usually involves the following process:

  • Anaesthesia.
    The type of anaesthesia will depend on the severity of your condition. It could be local, wherein your dentist will numb the area around the tooth. You may also be given a sedative or general anaesthesia, which will put you to sleep for the duration of the surgery.

  • Wisdom tooth removal.
    Your dentist will make an incision in your gum to access the tooth. If the tooth is still covered by bone, your dentist will remove the bone to expose the tooth. They may also have to cut the tooth into pieces to remove it.

  • Stitches.
    After the tooth has been removed and the area cleaned, your dentist will place stitches to close the incision in your gum. These sutures dissolve on their own after a few days. After the surgery, you will be given pain medication to help with the pain and care instructions to ease your recovery.

Is It Necessary to Extract an Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

You may not need treatment if you have an impacted wisdom tooth that is not causing any symptoms. Instead, your dentist will closely monitor the tooth to ensure it does not become infected or cause other problems.

The decision to undergo an impacted wisdom tooth extraction is usually based on the following factors:

  • The position of the tooth

  • The severity of the impaction

  • Whether the tooth is causing symptoms

  • Risk of infection or damage to the nearby teeth

If you have an impacted wisdom tooth that is not causing any problems, your dentist may not recommend removing it.

Possible Complications of Impacted Tooth Extraction

When deciding to have impacted wisdom tooth extraction, it is important to know the possible complications that may arise after treatment. This way, patients will be more prepared and proactive in reducing the risk of these complications.

  • Dry socket.
    This is a condition wherein the blood clot that forms after surgery is dislodged, exposing the nerve and bone in the socket. This can cause severe pain and infection.

  • Damage to nearby teeth.
    There is also a risk of damage to the adjacent teeth during surgery since they are close to the impacted wisdom tooth.

  • Infection.
    Another risk is an infection, which can cause swelling, pain, and fever.

  • Nerve damage.
    In rare cases, there is a risk of damage to the nerves that supply the teeth, tongue, and lips. This can cause numbness or tingle in these areas.

Before deciding to have your impacted wisdom tooth removed, discuss the risk of complications and benefits with your dentist. They can give you professional advice on the ideal course of treatment for your condition.

Final Thoughts

An impacted wisdom tooth is a tooth that has not fully erupted through the gum. This can happen if there is insufficient space in the mouth for the tooth, if the tooth is positioned at an angle, or if another tooth blocks it. Note that impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to develop problems and other complications. These include tooth decay, infection, cyst and tumour formation. If an impacted wisdom tooth is causing problems, your dentist may recommend surgical extraction.

Do you have an impacted wisdom tooth? Have you had any problems with it? Let us know by calling our contact numbers at (08) 9345 0455 if you’re in the Yokine area or at (08) 9452 8877 if you’re in Maddington.

At Clear Choice Dental, we provide a wide range of dental services, including general and cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics, implants, oral surgery, facial aesthetics, dentures, custom mouthguard, and more. We also accept emergency cases, including pain from wisdom teeth, toothache, abscess, broken jaw, dislodged veneers or crowns, complications from a recent dental procedure, and more.

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