Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Oral and maxillofacial Brisbane surgery impacted wisdom teeth photo

Wisdom or Third Molar teeth are usually the last teeth to protrude or erupt through the gums.   In most cases wisdom teeth do not erupt as there is normally not enough space in the mouth to allow them to do so.  Evolutionary development of the human body has led to a shorter jaw than that of our ancestors, however; the number of teeth has remained the same.  Thus leading to 32 teeth being squeezed into a “size 28” mouth.  This results in wisdom teeth being unable to erupt and therefore becoming “impacted” which can lead to problems including; decay, infection, pressure, cyst formation, orthodontic problems and almost certainly associated pain.

What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
A wisdom tooth that is unable to erupt through the gums due to lack of space or incorrect positioning is termed impacted.  Wisdom teeth are the most likely teeth to impact as they are the last set of teeth to erupt and must therefore fit between the tooth in front and the jawbone at the back.

How Serious is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
A tooth that is unable to erupt normally is nearly always going to cause problems at some point.  Therefore, early surgical intervention is usually paramount in alleviating any problems in the future.  Impacted wisdom teeth problems usually involve:

Decay:  Bacteria in the mouth can reach impacted teeth and cause decay, even though the tooth is not visible in the mouth.  This decay can cause infection and associated pain and may affect the roots of adjacent healthy teeth.

Infection: Food stuff and bacteria in the mouth can accumulate around an impacted or partially erupted tooth and result in localized infection and this can spread to surrounding tissues causing pain and discomfort.

Pressure: Impacted teeth especially impacted wisdom teeth can exert pressure on healthy neighboring teeth resulting in pain and possibly damage to the healthy tooth.

Cyst formation: If an impacted wisdom tooth is not removed, a sac of fluid can form around the tooth as a reaction to the associated infection.  Cysts can destroy bone and damage other teeth and the gums.  Also, subsequent removal of cyst affected impacted teeth requires more extensive surgery.   Although very rare, tumours can develop within these cysts and destroy adjacent tissues.

Orthodontic/Occlusal Problems: Tooth crowding is sometimes caused by wisdom teeth, sometimes resulting in malocclusion (teeth not meeting properly) which can lead to a multitude of associated problems.  In many cases, Orthodontists will require the wisdom teeth to be removed prior to commencing tooth alignment.

Will all impacted wisdom teeth cause problems?
At present, we recommend regular check-ups with your dentist and timely x-rays, in order to predict which wisdom teeth are likely to cause problems in the future.  The vast majority of wisdom teeth however will cause problems and such problems usually increase in severity with age.

What is involved in wisdom tooth removal?
Surgical removal of wisdom teeth varies widely between people in terms of surgical difficulty, operative risks and recovery.  For these reasons and the associated problems with ignoring impacted wisdom teeth, regular check-ups with your dentist and timely x-rays are paramount in reducing the chance of problematic wisdom teeth removal.

During this process, your dentist may suggest that you have your wisdom teeth removed.  Working with your dentist to ensure complete dental and surgical care, we would then organize a consultation for Dr Acton to examine you and your OPG (long x-ray of both jaws and all teeth) and to discuss your operation with you personally.  After this, an operation time is booked at either a private hospital or our outpatient theatre if you require a general anaesthetic (completely asleep) or in our rooms if you require a local anaesthetic (localized numbing of the area whilst you’re awake).

Techniques of wisdom teeth removal differ between patients due to the variables involved.  Dr Acton can discuss this aspect more accurately with you at your consultation.  In summary however, Dr Acton uses specifically designed surgical instruments to remove wisdom teeth to cause minimum trauma to the surrounding tissues in order to make your recovery as smooth as possible.  Possible side effects of wisdom teeth removal include: swelling, pain (very manageable with correct pain relief), jaw stiffness and light bruising.  These side effects and other operative risks are directly proportional to medical parameters such as age, difficulty of surgery etc, which are more accurately discussed in Dr Acton’s consultation after a full examination of yourself and your OPG.

Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is a regularly undertaken procedure that can be made as smooth as possible through excellent customer service and management in a caring environment.  It is our goal to achieve resolution of the chaos and anxiety many people feel when confronted with wisdom teeth that need removal.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to telephone or email us your query.

NB: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.  Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.