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Wisdom Teeth: Impaction and Removal for Better Oral Health

by Williams, Daily & Frazier on Sep 8, 2023 9:30:00 AM

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set that typically emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood. While they can be beneficial if they align correctly, these extra molars often pose challenges due to their potential impaction. In this informative guide, we will explore the intricacies of wisdom teeth, their impaction, and the significance of their timely removal for optimal oral health.

Understanding Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are relics of our evolutionary past, necessary for our ancestors' coarse diet. However, in modern times, with dietary and dental care improvements, they have become obsolete. These molars typically appear between 17 and 25, often causing discomfort and complications due to late arrival.


Impaction occurs when wisdom teeth fail to emerge correctly due to insufficient space in the mouth. This condition can lead to various oral health issues and discomfort. Wisdom teeth impaction can manifest in different ways, each requiring distinct management.

Types of Impaction

Mesial Impaction: This occurs when the wisdom tooth angles toward the front of the mouth, often causing crowding and pushing against the adjacent molar.

Vertical Impaction: In this case, the wisdom tooth grows straight up, but it might not fully emerge from the gum line, leading to potential infection and gum inflammation.

Distal Impaction: This type involves the wisdom tooth angling towards the back of the mouth, sometimes pressing against the rear molars, causing pain and damage.

Horizontal Impaction: The most problematic, horizontal impaction occurs when the wisdom tooth lies on its side, parallel to the other teeth. This can lead to severe pain, damage to neighboring teeth, and even cyst formation.

Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Recognizing the signs of impacted wisdom teeth is essential for timely intervention and preventing potential complications. Be vigilant if you experience:

Pain or Discomfort: One of the most common signs of impacted wisdom teeth is pain or discomfort in the back of your mouth or jaw. The discomfort can vary in intensity, from a mild ache to more severe pain. This discomfort is often due to the pressure exerted by the wisdom tooth against adjacent teeth, bone, or surrounding tissues. 

Swollen or Tender Gums: Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to inflammation and swelling of the gums around the affected area. If you notice that your gums are swollen, red, or tender, particularly at the back of your mouth, this could indicate impaction. The inflammation can be caused by the pressure from the wisdom tooth trying to emerge through the gumline or from the accumulation of bacteria in the partially emerged tooth. 

Jaw Stiffness: Another sign to be aware of is difficulty opening your mouth fully. If you experience stiffness in your jaw or have trouble fully opening your mouth to eat, speak, or perform everyday activities, this could be attributed to impacted wisdom teeth. The impaction can affect the surrounding tissues and cause discomfort that limits your jaw's range of motion.

Foul Breath: Bacteria thrive in environments that are difficult to clean, and impacted teeth can create pockets where bacteria can accumulate. This bacterial buildup can lead to bad breath, also known as halitosis. If you notice persistent bad breath that doesn't improve with oral hygiene practices like brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash, it might be a sign of impacted wisdom teeth.

Importance of Wisdom Teeth Removal

Due to the potential for discomfort, infection, misalignment, and damage to adjacent teeth, the removal of impacted wisdom teeth is often recommended. Proactive removal can prevent future complications even if there is no immediate discomfort.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure

The removal of wisdom teeth is a common oral surgery dental professionals perform. The procedure involves making a small incision in the gum to access the tooth and, if necessary, breaking the tooth into smaller sections for easier removal. Local or general anesthesia is typically used to ensure your comfort during the procedure.

Recovery and Aftercare

Wisdom teeth removal is a standard oral surgery procedure that can significantly benefit your oral health in the long run. After the procedure, you may experience swelling, discomfort, and some bleeding. To ensure a smooth and comfortable recovery, following your dentist's post-operative instructions diligently is crucial. 

Pain Management: It's common to experience discomfort after wisdom teeth removal. Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribe stronger medication to manage pain. Be sure to take the medicine as directed and adhere to the recommended dosage. Taking pain relievers before the anesthesia wears off can help you stay ahead of any potential pain.

Swelling Reduction: Swelling is a natural response to surgical procedures, including wisdom teeth removal. Applying ice packs to the outside of your face in the area of surgery can help reduce swelling and provide relief. Use the ice packs intermittently, applying them for about 15 minutes at a time with breaks in between. This can be particularly effective during the first 24 to 48 hours after the surgery.

Diet Modification: In the initial days following wisdom teeth removal, your mouth may be sensitive, and chewing might be uncomfortable. To prevent irritation and minimize discomfort, opt for a soft-food diet. Think of foods that are easy to chew and won't require excessive jaw movement. Soups, yogurt, smoothies, mashed potatoes, and soft fruits are great options. 

Oral Hygiene: Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial during your recovery period. Gently brush your teeth as your dentist recommends, careful not to disturb the surgical sites. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and take extra care around the incision areas. Rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater can also help keep the area clean and reduce the risk of infection.

Trust Your Smile to Williams, Daily, & Frazier Dentistry

Impacted wisdom teeth should not be ignored. They can lead to serious oral health complications if left untreated. If you suspect your wisdom teeth are causing discomfort or are impacted, don't hesitate to make an appointment with the professionals at Williams, Daily, and Frazier Dentistry. 

Our experienced team can evaluate your situation, recommend the best action, and ensure a smooth and comfortable removal procedure. Contact us today to prioritize your oral health and provide a bright and healthy smile for years to come.

Williams, Daily & Frazier Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist in Raleigh, NC with a dedicated team of dentists, assistants, hygienists and administrators who are enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams, Daily & Frazier at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.