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Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Signs and Treatment

Your wisdom teeth are the four molars positioned at the back of your mouth. Some people don’t experience difficulties when their wisdom teeth erupt in their late teens or early 20s, but for others, they become impacted. When this happens, it can cause a wide range of oral problems.

When wisdom teeth become impacted, removal is often recommended. Extracting wisdom teeth before roots and bone are fully formed makes it easier than waiting until later into adulthood when removing hardened bone is more complicated. 

Tracking the development of your wisdom teeth is the best way to identify any problems. Wisdom teeth specialist Eric Koch, DDS, of Advanced Dental Care of East Texas, provides expert dental services, including wisdom teeth monitoring and surgical removal.

With a professional examination and dental X-rays, Dr. Koch identifies the status of your wisdom teeth before they emerge. During this process, Dr. Koch determines whether any wisdom teeth are likely to cause problems and if they should be removed to preserve your oral health.

Understanding impacted wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, typically erupt when you’re between 17 and 21 years old. At this time, it’s likely that you already have 28 teeth, which leaves little space for four more. Without room to grow, wisdom teeth can trigger discomfort, swelling, and other problems as they try to erupt. 

It’s common for wisdom teeth to become impacted. That means the teeth are stuck under the gums.  

In some cases, an impacted wisdom tooth can break through the gum tissue partially and allow a flap of gum tissue to grow over the tooth. The unnatural flap can trap debris, bacteria, and plaque. The collection of materials can cause pericoronitis, an infection that results in swollen gums, bad breath, painful chewing, and neck and jaw pain.

Even if the impacted wisdom tooth breaks through the gum tissue partially or fully, it may grow at an unusual angle. Unusual positioning can make an erupting wisdom tooth difficult to clean and allow bacteria to become trapped. 

Signs of impacted wisdom teeth

While some people may only find out they have impacted wisdom teeth after they have a dental X-ray, others experience a range of warning signs and symptoms that indicate these teeth are creating issues. 

Some common signs of impacted wisdom teeth include:

Impacted wisdom teeth can also cause sinus problems when the upper wisdom teeth try to force their way through the gums. As these teeth grow roots, the roots can exert pressure on your sinuses, causing pain, congestion, and headaches. 

Treatment for impacted wisdom teeth

Treatment for impacted wisdom teeth often involves surgical removal. The procedure is typically performed by Dr. Koch on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. 

If you have dental anxiety or a strong gag reflex, Dr. Koch may administer sedation anesthesia, which depresses your consciousness. The procedure may also be performed using general anesthesia, which puts you fully to sleep. 

The technique for wisdom teeth removal begins with an incision in your gums. Any bone blocking access to the impacted tooth root is removed. A dental tool called an elevator is used to loosen each wisdom tooth. When freed, the tooth is removed with forceps. 

After removing the tooth, the wound is closed with stitches. The space, or socket, is packed with gauze. 

What to expect after the procedure to remove impacted wisdom teeth

It’s normal to experience discomfort, swelling, and increased sensitivity after your wisdom teeth removal. Dr. Koch ensures that you’re prepared for recovery with a prescription for pain medication and antibiotics before leaving the office.

Taking your medication as prescribed will help limit discomfort. Cold compresses will control swelling. 

Limiting your diet to soft or liquid foods like soup, mashed potatoes, or scrambled eggs will make it easier to eat as you recover. Your mouth should completely heal in about two weeks. 

To find out whether you have impacted wisdom teeth, schedule an appointment online or call Advanced Dental Care of East Texas to arrange a consultation.

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