Impacted Wisdom Teeth

A wisdom tooth is treated as Impacted in condition when it does not have enough space to grow in and remains buried in the gums due to decreased jaw size…

Wisdom teeth

“Wisdom teeth” are a type of molar. Molars are the chewing teeth found furthest in the back of the mouth. Most people have 1st, 2nd and 3rd molars. A person’s third molars are their wisdom teeth.

Third molars will erupt (come into place) right behind their neighbouring second molars, if there is room for them and they are aligned properly.

With most people, this eruption process takes place during their late teens or early twenties (usually ages 18 to 24 years), although eruption outside of this age range is not uncommon.

If there is not enough room for the teeth, or they are not aligned properly, they may never fully erupt.

People usually have four wisdom teeth: upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right.

If they don’t, it’s due to their genetic makeup. It’s been estimated that about 25% of all people are lacking one or more of their third molars.

In dental terminology, an “impacted” tooth refers to a tooth that has failed to fully emerge into its expected position.

This failure to erupt properly might occur because there is not enough room in the person’s jaw to accommodate the tooth, the tooth’s eruption path is obstructed by other teeth or because the angulation of the tooth is improper.

Studies evaluating relative younger age groups (ages 17 to 30 years, a population relatively less likely to already have had their wisdom teeth removed) have suggested that the incidence of having at least one impacted third molar runs on the order of 65 to 72%. 

Dentists use a number of terms, in combination, to describe the positioning of impacted wisdom teeth.

The reason why some wisdom teeth are impacted is not an easy question to answer. A primary cause of wisdom-tooth impaction simply seems to be a condition of inadequate jawbone space behind a person’s second molar.

Why this lack of space exists is not fully understood. There does, however, seem to be a correlation between large tooth size or the presence of generalized tooth crowding and having impacted wisdom teeth.

Modern man’s diet may play a role in third molar impaction.

It has been theorized that the coarse nature of stone-age man’s diet had the effect of producing extensive tooth wear (not just on the chewing surface of the teeth but also in between, where neighbouring teeth touch against each other).

This type of wear could result in a collective reduction of the “length” of a person’s teeth (as a set), thus creating enough jawbone space to accommodate the wisdom teeth by the time they erupted. In comparison the diet of modern man does not usually cause a significant amount of this type of tooth wear.

It has also been argued that the coarse nature of stone-age man’s diet, as compared to modern man’s relatively soft diet, probably required more chewing-muscle activity. This activity could have stimulated greater jawbone growth, thus providing more space for wisdom teeth.

Additionally, the harsh and threatening world of the caveman no doubt often lead to the occurrence of broken teeth and even tooth loss. Once a tooth (or a portion of it) is missing the teeth behind it have a tendency to move forward. This type of shifting would make more jawbone space available for wisdom teeth. In comparison, with the advent of modern dentistry there are relatively few reasons why a tooth should be lost or remain in a state of disrepair.

It might come as a surprise to you but no, not all impacted wisdom teeth necessarily need to be removed. It certainly can be possible that a person with an impacted tooth could live their entire life without ever experiencing any problem with it.

Of course, the trick is being able to determine which ones are likely to cause trouble. This is where your dentist’s experience and judgment comes into play.


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