Impacted Wisdom Teeth


Although most people develop and grow 32 permanent adult teeth, many times their jaws are too small to accommodate the four wisdom teeth. When inadequate space prevents the wisdom teeth from erupting they are called impacted wisdom teeth. This indicates their inability to erupt into the proper position for chewing and cleaning.

Impaction is a dental term used to describe a tooth that is unable to erupt properly. Impaction can occur as a full impaction or a partial impaction. Fully impacted wisdom teeth reside completely underneath the gum tissue and are unable to break through. Partially erupted wisdom teeth are those that have partially broke through the gum tissue, but are still partially underneath the gum tissue.

Types of Wisdom Teeth Impactions

Mesial, vertical, horizontal, and distal impactions are the four types of wisdom teeth impactions. All four types of wisdom teeth impactions can be treated by extracting the affected tooth in order to relieve symptoms and preserve oral health. However, there are some cases where certain types of impactions, such as vertical and distal, may not need to be extracted.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Mesial Impactions

Mesial impactions are the most commonly occurring type of wisdom teeth impaction. With a mesial impaction, the tooth is partially erupted and angled towards the front of the mouth. For this reason, mesial impactions are sometimes referred to as “angular impactions”. This type of impaction may or may not cause issues and is usually closely monitored before making decisions on whether or not to remove the tooth.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Vertical Impactions

Vertical impactions are a type of full impaction where the tooth is in the correct position for eruption, but still lies below the gums. Since wisdom teeth with vertical impactions are in the correct position, extraction is rarely needed unless the erupted tooth is expected to cause overcrowding or if it is exerting too much pressure on the tooth root next to it.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Horizontal Impactions

Horizontal impactions are a type of full impaction where the tooth is lying completely horizontally underneath the gums. Instead of moving up through the gums, the horizontal orientation of the tooth causes it to move sideways into the tooth next to it. For this reason, horizontal impactions are considered to be the most painful type of wisdom tooth impaction. To alleviate pain and prevent damage to the adjacent teeth, wisdom teeth that are horizontally impacted must be removed with a surgical extraction.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Distal Impactions

Distal impactions are the most rare of all types of wisdom teeth impactions. Like teeth with a mesial impaction, teeth with a distal impaction are angled and can sometimes be called “angular impactions”. However unlike a mesial impaction, teeth with a distal impaction are angled towards the back of the mouth and may be partially or fully impacted. The need for extraction will depend upon the degree of the tooth angle, as well as whether the tooth is partially or fully impacted.

Ultimately, an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon experienced with wisdom teeth extractions can determine what type of impaction is present and what the best course of action is. 

Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

While pain, swelling, and a foul odor or taste are three telltale signs of an impacted wisdom tooth, it is important to note that not everyone experiences these same exact symptoms. Some people may never know they have impacted wisdom teeth until they receive a dental x-ray at their routine dental exam, while others may be able to notice pain or swelling as soon as their wisdom teeth begin to erupt. 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth


Pain towards the back of the mouth or in the jaw is a pretty good indication that you may have a wisdom tooth impaction. Depending on the type of impaction, pain may be felt in the gums, the surrounding teeth, while chewing, or in all of the aforementioned. Pain from wisdom teeth can be caused by crooked wisdom teeth or by an infection caused by an impacted wisdom tooth. Wisdom teeth pain may start gradually or it may come on suddenly.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth


Another key sign of an impacted wisdom tooth is swelling. In most cases, swelling can occur in the gums around the affected tooth. In some cases, swelling may also be felt in the jaw. If the gums are swollen, they may also appear red or may bleed easily. You may also experience swelling in the lymph nodes or even a sore throat.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Foul Odor or Taste

The final sign of impacted wisdom teeth are a foul odor or taste that permeates through the mouth. In most cases, foul odor and taste are caused by pericoronitis. Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs near impacted wisdom teeth. In addition to foul odor or taste, there may be gum discharge, jaw swelling, muscle spasms, or swollen lymph nodes.

If you are between 17 & 25 and you begin experiencing these symptoms, it is very likely that you could have an impacted wisdom tooth.

In some cases, an impacted wisdom tooth may eventually be able to erupt properly, but in most cases dental intervention of some kind is necessary to alleviate symptoms, prevent infection, and preserve your oral health. 


Wisdom Teeth: Oral Surgery and Extraction


If any of the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth are experienced, it is essential to find an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon and determine whether the teeth should be removed.

Even if symptom-free, it can be better to remove wisdom teeth before they become a serious problem. As patients age, their wisdom teeth roots lengthen and can become entangled with the sensory nerves of the lower jaw or sinus area of the upper jaw.

If wisdom teeth later become a problem, it will be a more difficult extraction with greater potential for complications. It is impossible to predict if or when complications could occur. 

Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient.

Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teenage years by an Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon


Schedule a Wisdom Teeth Examination

At BC Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, our Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon can perform an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there are present or may be future problems, whether your wisdom teeth are impacted, if there is room for them to erupt, and how difficult it will be to have them removed

Contact us today to arrange for a wisdom teeth examination to determine whether you may or may not require wisdom tooth removal. 


Schedule a Wisdom Teeth Examination with our Oral Surgeon >