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Wisdom teeth eruption or removal has become a young adults right of passage into adulthood in recent years. Most parents are well aware of the need to remove those pesky wisdom teeth long before they present a problem. Dentists are likely to recommend that wisdom teeth be removed before they become an issue. However, for those that do not have them removed or do not receive regular dental care, it is important to know the warning signs of problematic or impacted wisdom teeth.

Solving The Impacted Wisdom Tooth

The most common treatment to care for a wisdom tooth is to remove it from the mouth. Wisdom teeth do not fit in most people’s mouths. Our jaws are able to hold at maximum 28 teeth (counting the wisdom teeth we develop 32 teeth) usually. There are some exceptions but generally there is little room for the wisdom teeth as they develop and attempt to erupt into the mouth.

Wisdom teeth removal is can be done at a dentist’s or oral surgeon’s office using just local or if necessary general anesthesia. Since the removal of wisdom teeth is considered oral surgery there are risks involved. These can include nerve damage, excessive bleeding, and possibly bone or teeth fractures. It becomes even more complicated if the wisdom tooth is impacted. An impacted wisdom tooth occurs when the tooth is encased in bone and never erupts fully into the mouth.

An impacted wisdom tooth may partially erupt so that only a portion of the tooth is visible (referred to as partially impacted), or it may never break through the gum tissues (fully impacted). Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:

-Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)

-Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth

-Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is “lying down” within the jawbone

-Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the bone

Signs And Symptoms Of An Impacted Wisdom Tooth

Impacted wisdom teeth don’t always cause symptoms. However, when an impacted wisdom tooth becomes infected, damages other teeth or causes other dental problems, you may experience some of these signs or symptoms:

-Pain at the back of the mouth, behind the molars. This pain will gradually increase with time as the wisdom teeth continue to grow in misaligned or sideways, pressing on nerves and bone, and crowding surrounding teeth.

-Red or swollen gum tissues

-Tender or bleeding gum tissues

-Inflammation (Swelling) around the jaw. Oral infections are common with wisdom teeth attempts at eruption. Bacteria can build up in the area where the tooth is attempting to erupt creating a buildup of oral bacteria which can lead to infection. If left untreated, this will affect both your dental and general health.

-Unexplained Bad breath (Halitosis)

-A weird taste in your mouth


If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can develop into cysts and, in rare cases, tumors.

Possible Impacted Wisdom Teeth Complications

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause various problems in the mouth. These can include:

-Damage to surrounding teeth. If the wisdom tooth presses against the second molar, it may damage the roots of the second molar or make it more prone to infection. This pressure can also cause problems with crowding of the other teeth necessitating the possible need for orthodontic treatments to straighten other teeth in the future.

-Cyst Develop. The wisdom tooth grows in a sac within the bones. This sac can fill with fluid, forming a cyst that can damage the bone, teeth and nerves. In rare cases a tumor can develop. Luckily, it is usually a noncancerous tumor. The development of a cyst or tumor may require removal of tissue and bone.

-Tooth Decay. Partially impacted wisdom teeth tend to be at an increased risk for tooth decay. This is because wisdom teeth are more difficult to keep clean and because food and bacteria get easily trapped between the gum tissue and a partially erupted tooth.

Periodontal Disease. The difficulty of cleaning impacted, partially erupted wisdom teeth also makes them an increased risk for the development of a painful, inflammatory gum condition called pericoronitis.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Conclusion

You should schedule an appointment to see your dentist if you experience pain, swelling or other symptoms mentioned above in the area behind your last molar that may be related to an impacted wisdom tooth. Maintain regularly scheduled dental appointments for dental examinations and professional cleanings to catch any issues before they develop further. Regularly updated dental X-rays may indicate impacted wisdom teeth before any symptoms develop.

Dental X-rays are an integral part of proper dental care. Most of us pose the question…Why do I need to have x-rays?? For starters, dental x-rays give your dentist a view of many oral issues that are not visible to the naked eye. This “photograph” of your dental skeleton allows your dentist information to make a better diagnosis, find potentially dangerous issues and  keep your dental health where it should be. Without routine dental x-rays small issues can develop into much bigger ones.

Benefits Of Dental X-Rays

A dental x-ray gives your dentist a closer look at the teeth, the surrounding bones, the jaws, dental decay, infection, and disease of your oral cavity. The following are some of the benefits of dental x-rays:

Detection Of Tooth Decay. While a dentist can see some tooth decay during your visual and manual examination, they are unable to see between the teeth, under fillings, and below the gum line. A dental x-ray can allow a much better view of damage to the teeth, and roots.

Presence Of Tumors In The Bone. A tumor can develop undetected inside the bone. If dental x-rays are taken routinely, it often gives the dentist the ability to detect developing tumors at an early stage.  Some tumors are harmless, while others are quite aggressive leading to loss of jaw bone and teeth. The best prognosis for treatment of tumors depends upon early diagnosis.

Diagnosis Of Periodontal Disease. One of the key tools in diagnosis periodontal disease are dental x-rays. Once periodontal disease develops past its earliest stages there will be loss of supporting bone. Using dental x-rays your dentist can see the progression and even the improvement once treatment begins. Without early diagnosis, the periodontal disease will progress, and proper treatment to slow progression will not occur.

Infections. These will be noted on dental x-rays as dark spots in the bone. An infection in the bone can be very destructive and if left untreated can lead to facial swellings,  lost teeth, lost bone, pain, and may be potentially life threatening.

Locate Teeth. Some teeth do not develop properly, are extremely out of position, may not be present, may have extra teeth, or tooth fragments may be impacted in the bone. It is important to know what is or is not a potential problem, and some may need to be extracted or re-directed by an orthodontist so as not to harm other teeth.

Check For Children’s Development. Dental x-rays give your dentist the ability to check your child’s development and ensure all the teeth are developing properly. Knowledge ahead of time will help you plan ahead for space management issues (crowding), growth management issues (upper and lower jaws severely out of alignment), lack of permanent tooth development (may require maintaining baby teeth for a much longer time period), extra teeth (usually require extraction).

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

This is a common concern especially among new parents. It is important to note that dental x-rays use very little radiation. Most people living in the United States today are exposed to a 100 times more radiation in a single year just from environmental sources. Remember not to confuse medical x-rays and dental x-rays. Medical x-rays use significant amounts of radiation while dental x-rays are extremely low radiation exposure.  Your dentist will take all the necessary precautions in limiting your exposure. This includes the following:

-Follow the ALARA Principle. ALARA stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable”.

-Use Of The Fastest Speed Film.

-Using As Small An X-Ray Beam As Possible.

-Use Of Lead Aprons.

-Following ADA standards of care in # and frequency with which x-rays are taken.

Dental X-Rays Conclusion

If you are concerned about dental x-ray safety speak to your dentist. A good dentist will be open to your concerns and attempt to alleviate your fears while keeping you safe. If you are seeing a new dentist for the first time, request copies of your old x-rays from your previous dentist. This may help limit new x-rays being taken but also give your new dentist a history of progression of any issues you might have been developing.

Dental x-rays are an important part of a thorough dental examination. While there may be some precautions to take, the benefits definitely outweigh the risks of not having dental x-rays. See your dentist regularly for routine dental examinations and x-rays to diagnose issues early, before they become larger, more dangerous problems.