Wisdom teeth are the upper and lower third molars – the teeth in the very back of your mouth. When the jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate wisdom teeth, they can become impacted. Impacted teeth may grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped entirely beneath the gum and jaw bone. Each of these possibilities can cause problems, including:
Pressure Pain: Impacted wisdom teeth often have to squeeze in next to teeth that have already settled into place, causing pain and discomfort.
Gum Infection: Bacteria trapped around a wisdom tooth underneath the gum can cause infection. The result is pain, swelling, jaw stiffness and general illness.
Tooth Decay: Partially erupted wisdom teeth can be hard to reach, making proper brushing and flossing more difficult. Bacteria and food particles can gather causing tooth decay and the need for gum disease treatment.
Cysts: A fluid filled sac (cyst) can develop around the gum of an impacted wisdom tooth. On rare occasions, a tumor can develop inside the cyst that can fracture the jaw.
Most wisdom teeth are extracted by a dentist or an oral surgeon under local anesthesia, the same injection you would receive to numb a tooth before having a tooth filling. If the surgical procedure will be more involved – as it is when removing impacted wisdom teeth – your dentist may recommend additional methods of sedation dentistry such as nitrous oxide or oral sedation.