What is the difference between impacted and erupted wisdom teeth?

What is the difference between impacted and erupted wisdom teeth?

wisdom teeth north OklahomaYour wisdom teeth, also known as your third molars, are the largest teeth in your mouth. Unfortunately, their size means that many patients’ mouths won’t have enough room for them to erupt properly, leading them to become impacted.

Because impacted wisdom teeth are associated with many negative outcomes, many patients will decide to have them extracted by an oral surgeon to reduce these risks.

Impacted vs. Erupted Wisdom Teeth

When a tooth erupts properly, it is able to come through the gum tissue fully and into the correct position. However, due to constraints of the jaw’s size, it is extremely rare for wisdom teeth to erupt properly. When wisdom teeth do erupt, they often are misaligned.

In contrast, impacted wisdom teeth become stuck in the bone or the gum tissue and are unable to erupt fully. In such cases, they usually need to be extracted by an oral surgeon who can remove the surrounding bone and/or gum tissue in order to access those teeth.

Why Our Wisdom Teeth Become Impacted

Our ancient human ancestors had much larger jaws than modern humans have. Furthermore, the large wisdom teeth were valuable in chewing a more fibrous diet and as replacements for teeth that were much likelier to be lost due to wear and tear.

Over time, our jaws have evolved to become more narrow, which means that there is less room to accommodate the wisdom teeth. We also have less need for them, as our diets are now focused on much softer foods that are easier to process.

Therefore, impacted wisdom teeth can be removed without the patient experiencing significant effects.

Consequences Of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth aren’t merely a nuisance. They can have major effects on your oral health and your quality of life, causing:

  • Discomfort
  • Increased risk of infections and abscesses
  • Increased risk of tumors and cysts
  • Damage to surrounding teeth
  • Misaligned smile

To reduce their risk of suffering these consequences, many patients will opt to have an oral surgeon remove their impacted wisdom teeth before any symptoms develop. Furthermore, the procedure and recovery are most predictable in patients 25 years old or younger.

If you believe that your wisdom teeth may be impacted, visit Central Oklahoma Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates for an evaluation and to learn about your treatment options.