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Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth (third molars) are the last adult teeth to come into the mouth.  Most people have four wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth — two on the top, two on the bottom.  Some people have wisdom teeth that emerge without any problems and line up with the other teeth behind the second molars.  However, when one or more of these teeth don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally, it is considered impacted.

Impacted wisdom teeth don’t always cause symptoms. However, when an impacted wisdom tooth becomes infected, damages other teeth or causes other dental problems, you may experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Red or swollen gums

  • Tender or bleeding gums

  • Jaw pain

  • Swelling around the jaw

  • Bad breath

  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth

  • Difficulty opening your mouth

An impacted wisdom tooth may partially emerge so that some of the crown is visible (partially impacted), or it may never break through the gums (fully impacted). Whether partially or fully impacted, the tooth may:

  • Grow at an angle toward the next tooth

  • Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth

  • Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is “lying down” within the jawbone

  • Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several problems in the mouth including damage to other teeth, cysts, decay, and gum disease.  If you’re experiencing symptoms that may indicate an impacted wisdom tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible to determine the best course of action.

Be sure to pay attention to what symptoms you are experiencing, when the symptoms began, whether anything (such as chewing toward back of mouth) worsens symptoms, or if you have experienced any bleeding while brushing or flossing your teeth.