Wisdom teeth (third molars) become impacted because they don't have enough room to come in (erupt) or develop normally.
Wisdom teeth usually emerge sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people have wisdom teeth that emerge without any problems and line up with the other teeth behind the second molars. In many cases, however, the mouth is too crowded for third molars to develop normally. These crowded third molars become trapped (impacted).
An impacted wisdom tooth may partially emerge so that some of the crown is visible (partially impacted), or it may never break through the gums (fully impacted). Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:
March 31, 2015
- Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)
- Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
- Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is "lying down" within the jawbone
- Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone
- Wisdom teeth management. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. http://myoms.org/procedures/wisdom-teeth-management. Accessed March 9, 2015.
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- Coulthard P, et al. Surgical techniques for the removal of mandibular wisdom teeth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004345.pub2/abstract. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Postextraction problems. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/dental_emergencies/postextraction_problems.html. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Gingivitis. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/periodontal_disorders/gingivitis.html?qt=Wisdom%20teeth&alt=sh. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Toothache and infection. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/symptoms_of_dental_and_oral_disorders/toothache_and_infection.html?qt=Wisdom%20teeth&alt=sh. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Bouloux GF, et al. What is the risk of future extraction of asymptomatic third molars? A systematic review. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In press. Accessed March 9, 2015.
- Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 17, 2015.
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