Impacted Third Molar (Wisdom) Teeth

What is an impacted tooth?

Although most people develop and grow 32 permanent (adult) teeth, many times their jaws are too small to accommodate the four third molars (wisdom teeth) erupting normally. When inadequate space and/or poor direction prevents a tooth from erupting it is termed impacted. This indicates its inability to erupt into the proper position for function (chewing) and cleaning and can cause problems over time such as pain, infection, decay, damage to the adjacent tooth as well as gum problems and cyst formation.

A diagram half mouth X-ray with teeth impaction and half digital graphic highlighting impacted teeth

Types Of Impactions

We will need to see you for a consultation to determine if you will benefit from wisdom tooth removal. An examination and a special x-ray of your mouth and jaws (panorex) will be needed to determine if your wisdom teeth are impacted, if there is room for them to erupt, and how difficult it will be to have them removed as well as an understanding of the anticipated recovery.

  • Soft Tissue Impaction:  When the tooth is prevented from erupting by only the gum tissue.  This is the least difficult type of impaction to remove.
  • Partial Bony Impaction:  When the tooth is prevented from erupting by a combination of bone and gums.
  • Complete (Full) Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased in bone. As it remains embedded in the jaw bone, it requires complex surgical techniques for removal.  The complete bony impacted wisdom tooth may also be in an unusual position and hence more difficult to remove.
A representation of a wisdom tooth impacted by soft tissueSoft Tissue
An example of a wisdom tooth with a partial bony impactionPartial Bony
An illustration of a wisdom tooth completely impacted by boneComplete Bony