Impacted wisdom teeth are quite common. In fact, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 9 out of every 10 people have at least one wisdom tooth that cannot erupt as it should.
However, all wisdom tooth impactions are not the same. Depending upon their angle of growth within the mouth, impacted wisdom teeth are classified as mesial, vertical, horizontal or distal.
Mesial Tooth Impaction
Mesial or mesio-angular impactions — the most-commonly seen type — are those in which the teeth are coming in at a forward angle, oriented toward the front of the mouth.
The severity of the angle determines whether wisdom teeth removal is necessary. But as mesial impactions place added pressure on the second molars, oral surgeons typically recommend extraction.
Vertical Tooth Impaction
In cases of vertical impaction, the third molars are at or close to the proper angle, but are not able to break through the jawbone and gums.
Oral surgeons advise an extraction of vertically impacted teeth when they are placing stress on the jawbone or the neighboring second molars. Removal may also be recommended to reduce the risk of future oral health problems.
Horizontal Tooth Impaction
With horizontal or traverse impaction, the third molars are growing parallel to the jawbone rather than pushing through the gums.
Horizontally impacted third molars are exceptionally painful and problematic to the surrounding teeth. As such, oral surgeons almost always recommend wisdom teeth removal for patients with horizontal impactions.
Distal Tooth Impaction
The least common type of impaction, a distal or disto-angular impaction, is one where the third molar is angled toward the back of the mouth.
As with mesial impactions, the extent of the angle dictates whether distally impacted teeth must be extracted. But oral surgeons often take a proactive approach and recommend wisdom teeth removal to preserve the patient’s oral health.
Signs You May Have Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Some patients only learn they have impacted wisdom teeth after they have X-rays taken. But most wisdom tooth impactions aren’t symptom-free. Chances are, if your third molars are stuck in your gums, you’ll notice one or more of the following warning signs:
- Pain at the rear of your mouth
- Swollen, red and tender gums
- Foul breath that won’t go away
- Lingering bad taste in the mouth
- Difficulty opening the jaw wide
- Headaches and ear pain
Though impaction doesn’t always necessitate extraction, treating impacted third molars requires skill, knowledge and experience. For expert care in the greater central Indiana area, call on the professional team at Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.
Dr. Garrison and Dr. Kelly, our board-certified oral surgeons, are specialists with decades of combined experience dealing with wisdom tooth impaction. We complete routine and complex extractions of impacted teeth on a daily basis, and we strive to provide every patient with a positive oral surgery experience.
If you think you may have impacted wisdom teeth, contact Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Indianapolis, Indiana, and schedule a consultation today.