Located at the back of the mouth, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear. As a result, in people who have jaws that can’t accommodate more teeth, wisdom teeth can become impacted.
Because it doesn’t have enough room, an impacted tooth usually either fails to erupt or erupts in a crooked manner.
Some people have wisdom teeth that partially erupt but don’t make it all the way through the gums. With these types of eruptions, food remains can get trapped between the tooth and the gum tissue, encouraging the development of plaque.
Below, we asked Emmanuel Aguilar, DMD at American Dental Clinic in San Diego, California, to explain how teeth become impacted, what the signs of impacted teeth are, and what treatments are available for impacted teeth.
Why impacted teeth are so common in Americans
With the advent of agriculture, our diets changed. Unfortunately, so did the size of our jaws, and not in a good way.
Researchers at Stanford found that wisdom teeth fit perfectly in the mouths of hunter-gatherers, who had slightly larger jaws than we have today.
One of the possible contributors to this? Plants have chemical defenses against herbivores and omnivores. For example, phytic acid and oxalates bind to minerals such as calcium, reducing mineral bioavailability.
Hunter-gatherers would eat wild plants in season. However, humans eventually bred grains, fruits, and vegetables for size and high energy concentration, and they began consuming larger quantities of these plant foods throughout the year.
Symptoms of impacted teeth
Your wisdom tooth may be impacted if you experience the following:
- Radiating pain in the back of the mouth,
- Tender and bleeding gums in the back of your mouth
- Swelling around the jaw
- Bad taste or bad smell in the mouth
Left untreated, impacted teeth can cause infections, tooth shifting, and damage to the surrounding teeth.
Getting treatment for your impacted tooth
Our experts may use X-rays to examine your mouth and determine if your teeth have enough room to erupt. If there isn’t enough room and you’re at risk for an infection, our specialists may recommend removing your impacted tooth.
With the help of modern dentistry, removing an impacted tooth isn’t painful, and the procedure can be done within one office visit. You can expect the procedure to take about an hour and half, after which you are free to go home.
Call American Dental Clinic or book your appointment online today, and find out if your symptoms are caused by an impacted tooth.