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Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Causes and Symptoms

Problems with wisdom teeth are one of the most painful oral health abnormalities. In the most severe cases, surgery is required and time off work to recuperate is necessary. Wisdom teeth can become either partially impacted, where part of the crown of the tooth comes through, or fully impacted, when it never erupts through the gums.

What causes teeth to become impacted?

Wisdom teeth become impacted when they don’t have enough room to grow or if they develop abnormally. There are a number of reasons for this and it is most likely caused by abnormalities in the direction of tooth growth, most commonly when:

  • There is overcrowding in the jaw

  • They grow towards the angle of another tooth

  • They grow towards the back of the mouth

  • They grow sideways

Consequences of impacted wisdom teeth

If impacted wisdom teeth are left untreated, a number of serious consequences can develop. These include:

  • Pericoronitis: this is an infection of the surrounding tissue of the tooth as a result of the trapped food and bacteria in between the crown of the wisdom tooth and the overhanging gum.

  • Tooth decay: it is sometimes very difficult to clean the impacted tooth or the surrounding teeth properly. This can result in tooth decay.

  • Alignment: if the wisdom tooth grows in the direction of another tooth or if there is not enough room in the mouth, the alignment of the teeth in the mouth may be compromised.


If a wisdom tooth is impacted, it is possible that there will be no symptoms. If the tooth or surrounding gums become infected, however, a patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain

  • Swelling around the jaw

  • Swollen or bleeding gums

  • Difficulty opening your mouth

  • Headaches

  • Bad breath

  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth


If the impacted wisdom tooth becomes completely absorbed in the jaw, never erupts and causes no discomfort, it may be unnecessary to remove it. If the tooth causes continual discomfort and is affecting the other teeth in the mouth, extraction may be necessary. The best course of action is to book an appointment with your dentist and have a dental examination after which treatment options will then be discussed. One of the first actions that will take place will be an x-ray to help the dentist understand the extent of the problem and to determine a treatment plan.

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