Reviewed by Dr. Thao Le, DDS, MD

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last set of permanent adult teeth to emerge and usually appear in the mouth between the ages of 17 and 25. However, not everyone’s wisdom teeth grow in the correct position, which can lead to impaction.

In this blog post, we will discuss the four different types of wisdom tooth impaction – vertical, horizontal, mesial, and distal angular impactions. We will also discuss treatment options and when to see an oral surgeon for treatment.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Impacted wisdom teeth, which grow at an incorrect position due to lack of space or improper orientation, can cause discomfort, pain, or other oral health issues. They are categorized into four types: vertical, horizontal, mesial, and distal. In most cases, removal is necessary to alleviate pain and prevent future complications.

What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

An impacted wisdom tooth is a tooth that fails to emerge fully into its expected position. This can happen because there isn’t enough room in the mouth for the tooth to grow in properly, or it may be growing in at an angle. An impacted wisdom tooth can cause discomfort, pain, and other oral health issues.

The four types of wisdom tooth impaction are: vertical, horizontal, mesial, and distal. We will discuss them in detail below.

1. Vertical Wisdom Tooth Impaction

Vertical impaction occurs when a wisdom tooth is growing in a relatively normal orientation, but it remains trapped under the gum tissue and sometimes bone. This type of impaction needs to be evaluated by the oral surgeon to determine if the tooth will erupt normally into the mouth or requires extraction.

2. Horizontal Impaction

Horizontal impaction is a type of impaction where the wisdom tooth tries to grow horizontally or sideways, pushing against the adjacent teeth. This can cause severe pain and damage to nearby teeth and bone.

3. Mesial Impaction

Mesial impaction, the most common type of impaction, occurs when a wisdom tooth grows at an angle towards the front of the mouth. This can result in the tooth becoming partially or fully trapped under the gum tissue and bone, causing pressure on the adjacent teeth, discomfort, and possibly damage to the adjacent teeth.

4. Distal Impaction

Distal impaction occurs when the wisdom tooth grows at an angle away from the front of the mouth, usually leaning towards the back of the jaw. This type of impaction is less likely to cause discomfort or damage to adjacent teeth, but is more likely to result in soft tissue infection and bone loss..

When Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Necessary?

Wisdom tooth removal is necessary in cases where the impacted tooth is causing discomfort, pain, developing pathology (cysts or tumors) or there is lack of space for functional eruption of the tooth. It may also be recommended if the wisdom tooth is at risk of damaging surrounding teeth or if it is causing crowding in the mouth.

Treatment Options

Treatment for an impacted wisdom tooth will depend on the type and severity of impaction, as well as the individual’s overall oral health. In most cases, removal of the impacted tooth is necessary to alleviate pain and prevent future complications.

If there is not adequate space in the mouth for the teeth to erupt normally into the mouth, surgical extraction may be necessary. This involves making an incision in the gum tissue to access and remove the impacted tooth.

When to See an Oral Surgeon

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your wisdom teeth or suspect that you may have an impacted wisdom tooth, it is important to see your dentist as soon as possible. They will be able to assess the situation and determine the best course of treatment.

In some cases, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon for a more specialized evaluation and treatment plan. Oral surgeons are highly trained in performing complicated extractions and can provide additional options for pain management during and after the procedure.

It is important to address impacted wisdom teeth promptly to prevent further complications and maintain optimal oral health. Regular dental check-ups can also help detect any potential issues with wisdom teeth before they become problematic, so make sure to schedule regular appointments with your dentist. 

Ideally, every patient should be evaluated around the age of 15 to determine if wisdom teeth are present and if it appears as though they could cause problems in the future. The recovery from surgery and the procedure has less risk of complication when the wisdom teeth are removed prior to becoming fully developed. Full development of the teeth happen between 16-20 years of age, therefore, evaluation at an early age is critical.

If you would like to be referred to one of our oral surgeons at Foley & Le Oral Surgery, ask your dentist to complete our patient referral form. When we receive your referral, we will contact you to book an appointment.

Foley & Le – Your Oral Surgeon in Boulder

If you are searching for the “best wisdom teeth removal near me” or ‘wisdom tooth removal in Boulder’, trust Foley & Le Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Boulder, CO. Our expert team will carefully assess your impacted wisdom teeth and provide personalized treatment options to alleviate pain, discomfort, and prevent future complications.

Remember, early detection of impacted wisdom teeth can save you from future oral health issues. Don’t wait until it’s too late – schedule your appointment with Foley & Le Oral Surgery today! Call (303) 444-2255 to book an appointment or complete the online booking form.

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