What Causes Wisdom Tooth Impaction?

Millions of Americans are familiar with wisdom tooth impaction and the treatment needed to remedy the potentially uncomfortable situation. The various causes for impacted wisdom teeth, however, are not as well-known. If you or someone you know is affected by this common condition, the factors that lead to its development may prove both interesting and important.

Angle of Growth

The most common cause of one or more impacted wisdom teeth involves growth of the third molars at an abnormal angle relative to the adjacent teeth in the upper, lower or both jaws. For some individuals, the third set of molars do not negatively affect the angle of other teeth in the mouth and do not, therefore, present any problem that necessitates removal. In the majority of cases, however, crowding of adjacent molars and other teeth does occur. If removed in a timely manner, or before eruption occurs, these molars may not impact the position of other teeth. Your oral surgeon may utilize equipment that produces a panoramic image of your entire mouth to determine likely displacement of adjacent molars before deciding to perform one or more extractions.

Though impacted wisdom teeth often present themselves in a relatively painless manner, failure to remove them may result in future complications that cause discomfort, pain and even infections. Wisdom teeth may grow and develop in any direction, be it slanted toward the second molars, rearward toward the back of the mouth, at or near a right angle to other teeth, or simply straight up or down while failing to emerge properly through the gum. X-rays help your surgeon to develop a treatment plan that suits your best interests regarding comfort, jaw structure and aesthetic appearance in the future.

Orthodontic Devices During Childhood

While every individual’s jaws and teeth grow differently, a baseline for eruption and jaw development does exist. When it becomes necessary to place braces, spacers, retainers or a combination thereof before the age of 17, the patient’s orthodontist considers the length of time necessary to fully complete the correction of gaps, misalignment and other circumstances requiring orthodontic intervention. Because wisdom teeth generally begin to erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, it is important that orthodontists consider all factors before commencing treatment. The use of braces may affect the impact that wisdom teeth have on surrounding teeth and jaw structure overall.

Dietary Influences

The normal wear and tear to which upper and lower molars are exposed may have an impact on the development and growth of wisdom teeth in adolescents and adults. When posterior teeth, or teeth located in the back of the mouth, are utilized sufficiently to produce a normally worn surface area, erupting wisdom teeth are more able to surface without issue. The grinding motion involved in the repetitive chewing of grains, meats and roughage tends to wear the rearmost molars in a way that is conducive to normal wisdom tooth growth. This research does not, however, pertain to all individuals, particularly to those who suffer from genetic conditions or congenital malalignment of the jaws.

Correction of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Fortunately for the many individuals in need of wisdom tooth extraction, modern advances in oral surgery make the process relatively simple and painless. Patients are placed under the necessary anesthesia for the required procedure and provided with ample relief for swelling and discomfort following surgery. Barring any complications, recovery time is typically minimal and daily routines can be resumed within 48 to 72 hours.

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