While wisdom teeth are supposed to be a help, they can quite often prove themselves a hindrance instead. Impacted wisdom teeth can be particularly problematic. If you have an impacted wisdom tooth, you may be wondering if you can leave it alone, or if you need to have it removed. Our team at Mas’ood Cajee DDS MPH in Manteca, CA, is here to help you find some answers.
What Happens if You Don’t Remove Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
It Could Lead To Infection
Wisdom teeth are notoriously difficult to clean. Some impacted wisdom teeth partially break through the surface of the gums, and these guys are even more difficult to properly clean. This can eventually lead to an infection of the gums known as pericoronitis.
This infection causes swelling and inflammation of your gums, especially the gums right around the problem tooth. Often times with partially erupted wisdom teeth, you’ll have a flap of soft tissue that covers the tooth. This moveable flap, called an operculum, is pretty good at trapping bacteria. If the operculum is getting in the way of a good clean, this allows the trapped bacteria to fester into an infection.
Cysts Could Form
Cysts can develop over or around an impacted wisdom tooth. As the cyst grows, it can push on and displace the teeth around it. Not only can this affect the impacted wisdom teeth, but it could damage your healthy teeth, jawbone, and sometimes even your nerves as well. Smaller cysts may not show any obvious symptoms until they’re larger. Our Dr. Mas’ood Cajee or Dr. Nabeel Cajee can check for cysts during an appointment.
Some larger cysts may start to cause symptoms such as tooth sensitivity and swelling. You may or may not see a small bump where the cyst is, depending on how close to the surface the cyst is. You may also notice your teeth shifting, either crowding further together or developing a gap.
How Crucial Is It To Treat Cysts?
Even in the case of a smaller cyst, we recommend having cysts taken care of right away. The quicker they are treated, the less risk of further complications there are. Even better, however, is having any impacted teeth removed before a cyst has the chance to develop.
It Can Increase Your Risk of Tooth Decay
Just the difficult location of wisdom teeth makes it important to monitor them, especially if they haven’t come up properly. It can be tricky to spot signs of wisdom tooth decay on your own. And even with thorough daily cleaning, it can be hard to reach all of the plaque that can develop around them. That can make them especially prone to developing cavities.
The Problem With Tooth Decay
There are many adults who are living with either a single or multiple untreated cavities. Tooth decay sets in when the bacteria and food particles stuck in our teeth develop a sticky plaque. Plaque, and its hardened form, tartar, eat away at the outer enamel of a tooth. Decay and bacteria in the mouth can produce unhealthy toxins.
When bacteria infects a tooth’s root, an abscess can develop. This infection will eventually be looking for a way out, and the direction it goes will depend on what direction gives way the easiest. This could mean the gums, but it could also travel into your jaw and spread infection there. The risk of it traveling to the brain, though slim, is also a possibility.
Your Other Teeth Could Be Affected
If an impacted wisdom tooth is pushing up against its neighboring tooth, it can harm that tooth in the process. In a bit of a domino effect, if the impacted tooth continues to push, the other teeth are going to have to shift out of the way. This could cause overcrowding. If the teeth are pushed too far, it may also weaken the root structure of these teeth.
It Could Affect Your Bite
With time, shifting teeth can affect your overall bite. When the bite is correct, it tends to hold everything properly in place. An incorrect bite can sometimes lead to jaw strain, uneven tooth wear, and headaches as well.
Every change in the mouth can have multiple consequences. If an impacted tooth is starting to mess with your smile, we recommend having it addressed before it makes more complicated treatment necessary down the line.
So we know that an impacted wisdom tooth may affect your jaw and your other teeth, but it’s also important to consider the health of your gums. The possibility of infection related to impacted teeth, as well as the higher likelihood of food and bacteria being trapped around a partially erupted tooth, may make you more likely to deal with gingivitis.
Gingivitis is pretty common. The good news is that it’s usually fairly easy to treat as long as it’s caught quickly, and the underlying cause is corrected. However, if the underlying cause is something like an impacted tooth, it may be difficult or impossible to completely treat gingivitis on your own. Untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. This more serious ailment can cause gum decay and may contribute to tooth loss.
How Do I Know if My Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Removed?
Differing Approaches to Asymptomatic Wisdom Teeth
If your wisdom teeth have come up straight and completely, you may not need to have them removed as long as you can keep them clean. Our team at Mas’ood Cajee DDS MPH will be able to give you our opinion on the health of your wisdom teeth, and can also help you regularly check for signs of decay. Wisdom teeth that aren’t causing any apparent trouble are called asymptomatic.
There is some debate on whether or not all wisdom teeth should be removed, even if there aren’t any negative symptoms associated with them. Some believe that removing wisdom teeth while they’re still asymptomatic can help prevent problems from ever arising. Their goal is the nip the issue right in the bud. After all, a lack of symptoms doesn’t always equate to a lack of disease.
What Is the Right Approach?
The right approach will depend on your needs as well as your wishes. If you feel that your teeth seem to be okay for the time being and you don’t want to have them removed, we may be able to take a “wait and see” approach. This approach will involve us taking extra care to check your wisdom teeth during your visits. If a problem seems to be developing, we may have to recommend removing them.
If you are looking to avoid issues altogether, then having wisdom teeth removed before they have a chance to cause problems is an approach you can take as well.
If It’s Impacted, It Should Probably Go
If in the process of waiting, an impacted wisdom tooth is discovered, this is a pretty good sign that it’s time to have it removed. The risks of leaving an impacted tooth may outweigh the benefits. There are several ways you can check and see if your wisdom tooth is in fact impacted.
Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms
One way you can watch out for tooth impaction at home is to be aware of the symptoms it can cause. These symptoms can include the following:
- Stubborn bad breath
- A strange taste in your mouth
- Tender gums, prone to bleeding
- Red or swollen gums
- Swelling or pain around the jaw
- Difficulty fully opening the mouth
The problem here is that many of these symptoms overlap with other oral problems. This is why we recommend scheduling consistent dental care, since we have multiple tools available to make diagnosing issues much more effective and accurate.
Get an X-Ray
The best way to see if your tooth is impacted is to roll on up to our office and have us check on your teeth with an X-ray. Getting a good picture of your jaw will make it fairly easy to point out any teeth going off the rails.
Are There Different Kinds of Wisdom Tooth Impaction?
Yes, there are. As if one kind of impaction wasn’t bad enough, there are actually four different ways impacted wisdom teeth can come about.
A tooth that is horizontally impacted is under the gums, and completely on its side. When this kind of tooth tries to emerge, it’s going entirely the wrong way. A horizontally impacted tooth is likely to run into the tooth next to it.
This kind of impaction can be particularly painful as it can potentially cause a lot of disruption to your other teeth and their roots. If it’s discovered that a patient has a horizontally impacted wisdom tooth, especially if that tooth could be on the move, it’s usually recommended that the tooth be removed before it has the chance to cause additional pain.
A vertical impaction occurs when the tooth is actually set up in the right position but never makes it to the surface. That means it’s still lying under the gums. If a vertically impacted tooth is putting pressure on the roots of healthy teeth around it, it may need to be removed.
This is considered the most common kind of impaction that can affect a wisdom tooth. Mesial impactions involve a tooth that made it part-way through the gums. You can usually expect this one to be pointing at an angle towards the front of your mouth. For that reason, you may hear a mesial impaction being referred to as an “angular impaction” instead.
This is generally considered the least common kind of wisdom tooth impaction. It’s similar to a mesial impaction as it usually involves a tooth that made it partway through the gums, and it’s come in at an angle. The difference is that instead of being angled towards the front of the mouth, a distal impaction is angled towards the back of the mouth.
Whether or not this kind of impaction will need to be removed will depend on how well the tooth can be cleaned, how much of the tooth made it to the surface, and whether or not it has the chance to be healthy and functional.
Need More Information?
Our office is proud to serve our community. Our values are simple; we believe in bringing the community quality care they can trust, and a comfortable environment they can feel at ease in. If you have any questions or concerns about wisdom tooth impaction, set up a consultation with our team at Mas’ood Cajee DDS MPH of Manteca, CA. We’re ready with the tools and experience to help you achieve your dental goals.