The term impacted wisdom teeth refers to the 3rd molars that erupt at the back of the mouth cavity. They are called impacted because there is not enough room for them to grow normally or even emerge.
In general, impacted wisdom teeth can cause dental problems, damage to adjacent teeth, and pain. These teeth may be vulnerable to disease even if they do not cause immediate or apparent problems. Teeth that cause dental complications or pain are typically removed. Some oral surgeons and dentists advise that such teeth are removed as to prevent problems even if they do not cause pain or discomfort at the moment.
Wisdom teeth do not grow normally in many people and either break through the gum partially or remain stuck under it. They are called impacted, and there are two reasons why they cannot grow properly – either the jaw is too small and there isn’t enough room or the wisdom tooth erupts at the wrong angle.
It should be noted that impacted teeth are not uncommon when we speak of wisdom teeth. As said, they often cause problems, and the soft tissue around them can trap plaque, food particles, and other debris. This may result in bad breath, cavities, gum tenderness, swelling, and other problems. In addition, these teeth can cause infection and may damage the surrounding teeth.
Teeth that fail to erupt fall into different categories, including horizontal impaction, distoangular impaction, vertical impaction, and mesioangular impaction. Vertical impaction is one type that occurs when the wisdom tooth cannot fully erupt once it is formed. Horizontal impaction, which is relatively rare, occurs when the tooth grows into the second molar’s roots because it is angled sideways at 90 degrees.
Distoangular impaction is also a rare form whereby the wisdom tooth is angled toward the rear of the mouth cavity or backwards. Finally, the most common form of impaction is mesioangular impaction, with the tooth being angled toward the front.
In the majority of cases, mesioangular impactions are easiest to extract in the lower jaw or mandible and more difficult to extract in the upper jaw or maxilla. On the other hand, distoangular impactions are more difficult to extract in the lower jaw and easier to extract in the upper jaw. In should be noted that when impacted wisdom teeth have fully erupted, they may require bone removal in case they do not yield to elevators or forceps.
Photo Credit: By Coronation Dental Specialty Group (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons