Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that come into the mouth, usually between the ages of 16 and 19. Most people have four wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth — two on the top, two on the bottom.

Because wisdom teeth appear at the back of the mouth they frequently don’t have enough room to emerge or grow normally. This lack of space makes wisdom teeth more prone to complications and health risks sets of teeth that appear earlier. A serious problem that can arise because of lack of space for new teeth is an impacted wisdom tooth.

What are impacted wisdom teeth?

Impacted wisdom teeth fail to erupt from the gum line there are different types of impacted wisdom teeth including:

  • Teeth angled to the front of the mouth
  • Teeth that do not fully erupt through the gum line
  • Teeth that are angled backward
  • Teeth that are angled sideways

Partial eruption of the wisdom teeth allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay and gum disease because their hard-to-reach location and awkward positioning makes brushing and flossing difficult.

What are the signs of impacted wisdom teeth?

Not everyone who has impacted wisdom teeth will experience pain and medical problems. But the following problems could indicate that your wisdom teeth are impacted, have become infected and require dental care.

  • Pain at the back of the mouth
  • Swelling in the jaw
  • Gum tissue inflammation at the site of the tooth
  • General illness
  • Foul breath
  • Bad taste when chewing food

If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can breed cysts and, in rare cases, tumors.

What are other risks of not having your wisdom teeth removed?

Your risk of developing cavities and gum disease in the back of your mouth is higher if you keep your wisdom teeth, because it is difficult to brush and floss that part of your mouth properly.

One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.

If you need orthodontic treatment, allowing your wisdom teeth to remain may affect the treatment.

Jean Brown research is currently conducting a study of an investigational medication to treat pain associated with the extraction of wisdom teeth. Click here to see if you qualify to participate in Jean Brown Research’s wisdom teeth study.