What Is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth and How Do You Know If You Have One?

An impacted wisdom tooth can cause a myriad of problems. Here’s everything you need to know, including what an impacted tooth is, what its symptoms are and how you can treat it.

Wisdom teeth are the last of three sets of molars you get and they usually come in when you’re in your late teens or even early 20s — it’s presumed you’re a little wiser at this stage of your life, which is where the name comes from. Molars are the widest and strongest of your teeth and their function is to help chew up and grind food, aiding the digestive process by releasing more nutrition. But things don’t always go according to how nature intended and these teeth can become impacted.

So what is an impacted wisdom tooth?

As wisdom teeth are the final teeth to erupt, the jaws are already full of other pearly whites, and there can be problems. Often, when wisdom teeth are trying to break through the gum, there simply isn’t enough room for them to come in, because other teeth block them. In these circumstances, if they do manage to break through the jaw, they’re unable to settle into place and develop as they should — this means they’re impacted and issues could arise.

Symptoms of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth

It’s possible to have an impacted wisdom tooth and no symptoms at all because the tooth has managed to come through to some extent and is not causing any problems. But it’s common for difficulties to arise with impacted wisdom teeth and you may experience one or more symptoms that lead you to believe you have a problem.

These symptoms can include tender or swollen gums that may be red or bleeding in certain areas.  You can also have pain and swelling along your jaw and a sudden bad taste in your mouth caused by a bacterial infection in the area around the impacted tooth. Some people with impacted teeth can also find it hard to open their mouth.

Preparing for Dental Implant Surgery

Before you can go ahead and have dental implant surgery, you’ll need to have one or more consultations with a number of specialists, including your dentist; a periodontist, who specialises in bones and gums; and possibly also an ear, nose and throat consultant. This is to ensure that this multi-stage procedure is suitable for you and that your dental implants will have the highest chance of success.

As part of your dental implant evaluation, you will most likely be required to undergo the following:

  • A comprehensive examination of your teeth: This will include X-Rays and 3D images may be taken.
  • A medical history review: Your dentist will want to know everything about your medical past, including any medications you may be taking, past surgeries and any conditions that may affect or be affected by your dental implant surgery.

After both of these have been carried out, an effective treatment plan for dental implant surgery can be drawn up for your specific case. It will include the number of teeth to be replaced, or gaps, if there are no teeth there, as well as the condition of your existing teeth and overall jawbone health.

Dental Implant Surgery Steps

Because a number of stages are required when performing dental implant surgery, it will take place over a period of time — usually around three but up to six months — that allows sufficient healing of the site or sites where the implant will eventually be placed. Typically, you can expect the following:

  • Removal of an existing, damaged tooth and preparing the site for placement.
  • Grafting in the jawbone area if there’s insufficient bone to take the implant or support it; grafting can be from another part of your body or artificial.
  • Placing the dental implant, or artificial root that will anchor the implant.
  • A healing stage that permits bone growth.
  • Adding an abutment, the element that connects the implant with the artificial tooth.
  • Placement of an artificial tooth.

When the entire process of dental implant surgery is complete, it’s a time for recovery and to take it easy. You may have some swelling in your gums or bruising along them and your skin; and there could be some initial but minor bleeding and pain at the implant site. It’s likely you’ll be given a course of antibiotics to take, along with painkillers.

Usually, stitches that are used in the procedure are the self-dissolving kind; but if not, you will have to return to have them removed. In the meantime, you’ll be advised to eat soft foods that don’t disrupt your new dental implants. Most dental implants are successful, but if one happens to fail, it can be removed and after about three months, you can try again.

If you’re thinking of having dental implants, or already have them but need repairs, our highly experienced dentists at The James Clinic are available to talk to you about your individual situation and offer the best advice for you. Get in touch now to find out more.

Photo by Umanoide