Wisdom teeth are the teeth most commonly missing in adults as they have the worst time coming out normally and hence have to be extracted. It is not uncommon to hear the dentist say that the wisdom tooth does not have the space in the gum line to sprout out to its full size. This problem is known as an impacted wisdom tooth, where the crowding of the other teeth leaves little or no space for the wisdom tooth to make a proper appearance thereby causing pain and discomfort.
If the wisdom tooth gets trapped in the jawbone or the gum, not only can it cause a lot of pain, but it can start eating away at the roots of other teeth nearby causing dental damage. There are several degrees of impacted wisdom teeth, depending on where the teeth are placed within the jaw.
Soft tissue impaction takes place when the crown of the tooth has penetrated through the jaw bone, but the gum covering is still shielding a part of the tooth.
When the tooth has partially come in, but a portion of the tooth remains buried in the jawbone, this is known as partial bony impaction. Complete bony impaction occurs when the tooth is entirely inside the jawbone and no part of it is visible above the gum line.
Impacted wisdom teeth do not always show symptoms, meaning one could have impacted teeth and not even realize it. Left untreated though, these can result in gum disease and tooth decay. In some rare cases, the infection from impacted wisdom teeth has also given rise to cysts and tumours.
The simplest intervention for an impacted tooth is extraction but this can be complex depending on the degree of tooth impaction. If a portion of the tooth has come out of the gum, the extraction proceeds normally. However, in cases where the tooth is embedded inside the gum or has not come out of the jaw bone, the dental surgeon will cut open the gum and remove the tooth bone to reach the root.