Normally found in four groups of three, molars are sometimes accompanied by up to four wisdom teeth or extra molars. It is possible to have more than or less than four, but most often, there is one wisdom tooth behind each row of molars. Wisdom teeth develop much later in life than other teeth, often becoming ‘impacted’ or coming in at an odd angle, which usually leads to them being removed. Around a third of adults will never develop wisdom teeth.
Typically, impacted wisdom teeth are categorized into a few commonly found forms:
Mesioangular impaction, where the tooth is angled forward, accounts for half of all impacted wisdom teeth.
Vertical impaction is also common, happening when a wisdom tooth does not fully erupt through the gum.
Distoangular impaction and Horizontal impaction are the least common, being seen in only a small percentage of all wisdom teeth. These types of impaction are when the tooth is angled backward or sideways, respectively.
Because of the abundant levels of bacteria in the mouth, it often leads to pericoronitis, an infection of the gum mostly occurring in young people. When a tooth partially erupts from the gum, it exposes a flap of tissue that can trap bacteria and lead to infection. Keeping up with oral hygiene is extra important, while wisdom teeth are breaking through the gums.
Generally, wisdom teeth are extracted quickly and painlessly. For many people, wisdom teeth will threaten to be impacted and change the bite or position of other teeth and are generally considered to be unneeded. Others may not have wisdom tooth problems, or may not grow the teeth at all.
If you or someone you know is having an issue with a wisdom tooth affecting dental work, teeth, or gums, call the office of Dr. Cohen at 626-967-6453.