What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Impacted wisdom teeth (or impacted third molars) are wisdom teeth which do not erupt into the mouth. This is because of blockage from other teeth or surrounding bone structures. If the wisdom teeth do not have an open connection to the mouth, or if they partially erupt in the mouth, pain and infection can begin to initiate in those areas.

Wisdom teeth likely become impacted because of the size discrepancy of the teeth and the size of the jaw. The jaw size may be too small for these teeth to properly erupt into the oral cavity. Impacted wisdom teeth are classified by many factors: the direction of the impacted tooth, the depth compared to the biting surface of adjacent teeth, and the amount of the tooth’s crown that extends through gum tissue or bone. Screening for the presence of wisdom teeth often begins in late adolescence when a partially developed tooth may become impacted. The age range in which these teeth are typically removed ranges from 14-19 years of age. Screening commonly includes a clinical examination as well as Panoramic radiographs.

Infection can result from impacted wisdom teeth. This can be initially treated with antibiotics, local debridement or soft tissue surgery of the gum tissue overlying the tooth. Over time, most of these treatments fail and patients develop recurrent symptoms. The most common treatment is wisdom tooth removal.