Teeth may become impacted when they fail to erupt or develop into the proper functional position in the mouth. The position of these impacted teeth can be tilted at an angle such that only a portion is exposed or buried deep by connective soft tissue or bone. As such, impacted teeth are considered non-functional (not in use), abnormal, and pathological. The lower 3rd molars, commonly known as the “wisdom teeth”, have the highest incidence of becoming impacted. Due to the late eruption order for the wisdom teeth which usually starts to appear in our mouth between the ages of 18 to 21, there is often inadequate space left. Some of the causes of inadequate space are
1. Smaller size of lower jaw (especially in Asians – Chinese).
2. Irregular sizes of other teeth such that little or no more space is available for the wisdom teeth to migrate into.
3. Change from a coarse, attritive diet to a modern, refined diet. This is believed to result in less tooth wear such extra space cannot be created with the other teeth shifting to the midline.
Impacted wisdom teeth can give rise to a variety of dental problems.
1. Poor Hygiene. Food often gets trapped between the impacted wisdom tooth and the tooth in front which is difficult to clean.
2. Pericoronitis. Infection and inflammation of the layer of gums covering the impacted wisdom tooth as a result of bacterial decay of the food trapped there.
3. Tooth decay on the surfaces of the impacted wisdom tooth as well as the distal surface of the good tooth in front of it. If left untreated, it can lead to irreversible pulpal pain and possible loss of the 2nd molar in front of it.
4. Dental abscess can form due to the infection and spread along the muscle layers and blood vessels / lymphatics.
5. A deeply buried wisdom teeth may sometimes have develop cystic changes and expand in the jaw bone.
Should you already notice you have impacted wisdom teeth, vdentalcare strongly advise that you seek a consultation with your dentist to assess the condition so that treatment can be rendered early. Generally, impacted wisdom teeth require surgical removal and it is common to see better and faster healing in young healthy individuals. If you are aware that you have a wisdom tooth problem, seek treatment early.
Risks of wisdom teeth surgery are generally listed below, but it may vary according to individual’s state of health, position of impacted tooth as well as any other surgical reasons.
1. Small risk of injury to the nerves that run close to the tooth that can result in partial or total numbness to side of lower jaw, lip, chin and tongue. If it happens, most of the time it is temporary with only less than 1% experiencing permanent paraesthesia.
2. Wound infections. Commonly seen in smokers who picked up the cigarettes after the surgery. Smokers are advised to abstain from smoking for at least 1 week after surgery.
3. Post-Op Pain. Discomfort / pain normally last for the first 1 or 2 days of the surgery and can be controlled by pain-killers prescribed by the surgeon.
4. Post-Op Bleeding.
5. Post-Op Swelling and Bruising.