Wisdom teeth (third molars) become impacted because they don't have enough room to come in (erupt) or grow 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:
Apr. 11, 2012
- 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. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. http://www.aaoms.org/wisdom_teeth.php. Accessed Feb. 21, 2012.
- Marciani RD. Third molar removal: An overview of indications, imaging, evaluation, and assessment of risk. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America. 2007;19:1.
- Bagheri SC, et al. Extraction versus nonextraction management of third molars. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America. 2007;19:15.
- Haug RH, et al. Evidenced-based decision making: The third molar. Dental Clinics of North America. 2009;53:77.
- Gingivitis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/periodontal_disorders/gingivitis.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2012.
- Caries. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/common_dental_disorders/caries.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2012.
- Kandasamy S, et al. The wisdom behind third molar extractions. Australian Dental Journal. 2009;54:284.
- Farish SE, et al. General technique of third molar removal. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America. 2007;19:23.
- Postextraction problems. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/dental_emergencies/postextraction_problems.html. Accessed Feb. 23, 2012.
- Dental anxiety. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/3102.aspx. Accessed Feb. 23, 2012.
- White RP Jr., et al. Evaluation and management of asymptomatic third molars: Lack of symptoms does not equate to lack of pathology. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 2011;140:10.
- Kandasamy S. Evaluation and management of asymptomatic third molars: Watchful monitoring is a low-risk alternative to extraction. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 2011;140:11.
- Carr AB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 22, 2012.