Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Posted by Dr. Soto May 11, 2018

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Wisdom teeth were a useful asset to prehistoric humans because of their eating habits. Today, this evolutionary trait is a holdover that is unnecessary.  While they used to be tools for gripping and tearing food, now they are simply the source of dental problems, some of which could be serious.

Wisdom teeth are the third molars deep in the back of the mouth, two each in the top and bottom rows. They are the last teeth to appear. They are often misaligned, get unhealthy quickly, causing discomfort and health issues.

Wisdom teeth become impacted when they are blocked from erupting from the gums by the jawbone or neighboring teeth. They are notorious for causing pain and dental complications that range from mild to severe to dangerous.

The teeth are the last ones in the jaws and are situated far back in the mouth. This makes them hard to reach for brushing and flossing, leaving them vulnerable to dental problems. Impacted wisdom teeth typically affect people from 15 to 25 years of age. Usually, individuals over 30 years are free from issues with wisdom teeth.

If impacted wisdom teeth are not treated, they will decay in the gum, leading to gum disease, development of cysts, or rotting of adjoining teeth. It is important to recognize the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth and seek immediate medical help.

What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Impacted wisdom teeth come in different variations. Some remain completely blocked by gum, jawbone and surrounding teeth and never ‘erupt’ or surface. Sometimes they break through only partially, creating a gateway for infection-causing bacteria, and leading to painful infections and complications.

The wisdom teeth push existing teeth forward to make room for themselves. This is very painful.

Painful Complications:

The jawbone is not big/wide enough to accommodate wisdom teeth.

Existing teeth crowd out the jaw, not leaving room for wisdom teeth to erupt.

Wisdom teeth grow at a forward angle toward the adjacent tooth.

Wisdom teeth grow at a backward angle.

Wisdom teeth growth vertically but remain embedded within the jawbone.


While impacted wisdom teeth themselves cause serious pain and difficulties, the associated complications that can arise as a result are more serious, and can even be dangerous:

  • Wisdom teeth can damage and realign adjacent teeth.
  • Cysts and tumors can develop.
  • Nerve damage can occur.
  • Gum disease or tooth decay occurs due to trapped food and bacteria.
  • Crowding affects the development of other teeth.
  • Impacted Wisdom Teeth cause changes in overall bite structure.
  • Poorly aligned teeth cause painful irritation and friction against tongue, inner cheek, roof or bottom of the mouth.
  • Pericoronitis – tissue overlaying the impacted teeth becomes infected, leading to sometimes life-threatening neck infections.

Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth:

When wisdom teeth become impacted the condition is manifested in many unmistakable symptoms, particularly as the condition worsens and the surrounding teeth get affected.

  • Throbbing pain in the impacted tooth.
  • Radiating pain of the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint, which connects the jaw and skull. This pain may radiate to other areas of the head and face as well.
  • The pressure in back molars.
  • Swollen, tender and bleeding gums.
  • Swollen glands in shoulder and neck.
  • Abscess, infection, drainage of gums in gum or tooth.
  • Foul breath due to bacterial growth and infection.
  • Difficulty and painful chewing.
  • Occasional swelling of lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Malocclusion – misalignment of corresponding teeth in upper and lower jaws.

Treatment for Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can be detected by using a panoramic X-ray. Your dentist can identify them and take steps to treat them before they begin to worsen and cause debilitating pain.

The most effective treatment for an impacted wisdom tooth is extraction. If the tooth is difficult to access, because it is trapped beneath bone the procedure will need to be performed by an oral surgeon.

Your mouth will be anesthetized before the surgery. The dental surgeon makes a small incision in the gum above the impacted tooth. He may need to excise a small amount of bone or break up the tooth into smaller pieces before completing the extraction.

Mild painkillers will be prescribed to help with post-surgical pain and discomfort. Your doctor will monitor you to ensure no infections occur. Usually, there should be no further complications

If you are experiencing the painful symptoms associated with impacted wisdom teeth, contact your dentist right away. Dr. Ernie Soto can diagnose your impacted wisdom teeth and get you on the path to a pain-free treatment. Specializing in sedation dentistry, Dr. Soto offers a complete range of dental services. To schedule an appointment, call (954) 368-6264 today.

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