Wisdom teeth are the last molars on each side of the upper and lower jaw. They erupt when the person is either a teen or a grown up adult. But by that time, the rest of our teeth are already developed which means wisdom teeth have to wiggle their way in to find room. If you’re one of the lucky people to have a jaw large enough to accommodate them, you won’t even notice they’ve grown, as they won’t cause any problems. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no room for a wisdom tooth to come through, or it may erupt at a bad angle. When this happens, the tooth is considered “impacted”.
When it’s partially emerged and the crown is visible, the tooth is considered partially impacted. But if it never manages to break through the gums, you’re dealing with a fully impacted wisdom tooth. A partially impacted tooth is often asymptomatic and needs to be regularly monitored to prevent any problems. On the other hand, it’s the fully impacted wisdom teeth that cause the most trouble. Common complications of impacted wisdom teeth are pain and bleeding gums, but if left untreated there’s a great chance to experience more serious problems.
One such complication is when the wisdom tooth pushes on the root of the second molar, causing it to misalign or develop an infection. If left untreated for a long time, the impacted tooth can cause more serious complications, like for instance cysts or tumors. Because the tooth develops in a sac within the jaw bone, the sac can fill with fluid and turn into a cyst or a tumor that can damage the gums, the jawbone, and the nerves.
If you’re experiencing these and similar problems with an impacted wisdom tooth, the only solution is to have it surgically removed. Wisdom tooth extraction is nothing to be afraid of. Often, it’s a quick outpatient procedure, which means you can go home the same day. Of course, in order to prevent pain, you’ll be put under local anesthesia which numbs your mouth. Some serious cases might require a general anesthetic which will put you to sleep.
After the tooth has been removed, it’s normal to experience some mild pain and bleeding, as well as swelling of the jaw. Some people may find it difficult to open their mouth. In any case, your dentist will advise on how to care for the wound and manage pain and swelling with cold compresses or pain medication.
Though having any tooth removed can often cause fear and anxiety, delaying the procedure may cause permanent damage. Try to talk with your dentist and express your concerns. And remember that fear is nothing to be ashamed about. Many dentists will try to find ways to make the procedure more comfortable and allow you to bring along a friend or a family member. If you think this won’t work, try talking to your dentist or dental surgeon about any medications or sedatives that may help you.