What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow during late teens and early twenties. Wisdom teeth are also known as “third molars”. Some people have none, whereas others can grow up to 4 wisdom teeth. They are known as “impacted” when there is not enough room for wisdom teeth to develop and erupt normally.
Wisdom teeth don’t always cause symptoms on their own, but they often have a risk of becoming infected, resulting in damages to adjacent teeth.
A wisdom tooth becomes impacted or trapped when the jaw doesn’t have enough space to erupt fully through the gum. They can be partially impacted, which means they’ve only partially emerged, or they can be fully impacted, which means they never grow through the gum. It is believed that our jaws shrink in size as a result of evolution and a modernised diet, but our teeth remain the same size. Impacted wisdom teeth are thought to be due to the space discrepancy between a smaller modern man’s jaw and teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth should be regularly checked by your dentist during your routine dental visits, which may include a full mouth X-ray (also known as an OPG). A wisdom tooth may not need to be removed if it is fully buried under the jaw bone and does not exhibit any signs or symptoms. However, when partially impacted or infected (known as pericoronitis), extraction is often the recommended treatment.
Wisdom teeth removal usually requires a single appointment and a follow-up sutures removal appointment, and recovery typically lasts for 1 week. Removal of wisdom teeth can be done under general anesthetics, which requires hospital stay and an anesthetist. For those who do not wish to go to hospital and undergo general anesthetics, our dentists can remove wisdom teeth under local anesthetics in a dental clinic.
While having wisdom teeth out might not be your ideal way of spending a day at the dentist, not getting a problematic wisdom tooth removed can endanger your oral and overall health in many ways. Waiting too long to remove a wisdom tooth often leads to more infection, dental abscesses spreading to the rest of the jaw and neck areas, sometimes even life endangering. Some people also notice front teeth movement during wisdom teeth eruption, resulting in orthodontic relapse.