Wisdom teeth are part of the many changes you experience in your life. When you get close to reaching adulthood, getting your wisdom teeth becomes your final dental milestone. Wisdom teeth have a reputation of causing issues, so it’s essential to educate yourself on your own dental health. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about wisdom teeth and the comparison of impacted vs erupted wisdom teeth.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Your wisdom teeth are the final, third set of molars that you get in your mouth. They grow-in right behind your last set of molars and each person has a total of 4 wisdom teeth: one set on the bottom of the jaw and one set on the top. Wisdom teeth can cause pain and discomfort, and in other cases cause more-severe issues throughout the mouth.
When a wisdom tooth breaks-through, or erupts through the gums normally, they can become a functional part of your dental-function. More commonly however, wisdom teeth do not come in perfectly and may even be impacted; creating other complications.
When Do They Appear and Why?
Every person is unique, but your wisdom teeth usually emerge during your late teen years or early adulthood. The average age of emerging wisdom teeth is between 17-21 years. This age-frame is what lends the teeth their nickname as “wisdom” teeth.
Though scientists are unsure of the exact reason for your wisdom teeth, evidence suggests that the answer lies in our human ancestry. Early humans had very different diets than you do today; mostly consisting of “uncooked, hard items like roots, nuts, and meat.” This extra set of teeth may have been developed through an evolutionary need to adapt. With the diet humans eat today, there really is no medical need for this third set of molars.
More interestingly, some people today are born without wisdom teeth at all. Scientists believe that this is the result of another evolutionary change, as we no longer need the teeth for eating. Through centuries and centuries of wisdom teeth not being necessary, the evolutionary chain may be beginning to leave them out.
Erupted Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth starts to break the gum and emerge through the skin, this is called an erupted wisdom tooth. It simply means that the tooth has “erupted” through the skin. An erupted wisdom tooth can include teeth that have come-in perfectly as they should, and those that have partially broken the skin and/or are crooked.
When you are comparing impacted vs erupted wisdom teeth, an erupted tooth has simply breached the surface of the skin. Even though a tooth may erupt, it may not erupt in the ideal way. This puts your tooth and mouth at-risk for infection and other complications.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth are wisdom teeth that simply do not have enough room to erupt or develop normally. When your mouth does not have enough room for these teeth, or the teeth do not develop in the correct position, they are considered impacted. Though the majority of people develop wisdom teeth, few people experience perfectly-erupted teeth.
If you have impacted wisdom teeth, something is “impacting” the way your tooth is erupting through the gums. The wisdom tooth may be trapped under your gums, in your jaw, or is emerging in the wrong direction. It may surprise you to know that impacted wisdom teeth or improperly-erupting wisdom teeth are more common than perfectly-erupting wisdom teeth.
Impacted vs Erupted Wisdom Teeth: Symptoms and Signs
You should know the difference in symptoms when comparing impacted vs erupted wisdom teeth, since this knowledge could save the health and well-being of your teeth, gums, and mouth. If you ever think your symptoms are the consequence of your wisdom teeth not erupting properly, seek the attention of your dental team as soon as you can.
Symptoms of a Regularly-Erupted Wisdom Tooth
- Mild-moderate pain and discomfort surrounding the tooth.
- Mild-moderate swollen/red gums.
- Sensitivity chewing or eating.
- Pressure in or around the wisdom tooth.
- Mild pain or discomfort in the jaw.
- Swollen lymph nodes in throat (swollen glands).
- Visible tooth erupting through gums (may look like a small, white spot).
Symptoms of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
- Moderate-severe pain and discomfort surround the tooth.
- Pain that radiates through other areas of the mouth.
- Moderate-severe swollen/red gums.
- Bleeding from the gums.
- Pressure that radiates through the jawline or into ears.
- Headaches or earaches.
- Severe pain in the jaw.
- Difficulty opening the mouth or chewing.
- Visible gap where tooth should be or visible movement in other teeth (making room for an impacted tooth pushing on them).
Impacted vs Erupted Wisdom Teeth: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Extraction
If an erupting wisdom tooth is emerging through your gums perfectly and you have no issues or infection, the dentist may not want to touch your teeth at all. The only time a dentist will want to extract your wisdom teeth is if they are impacted, causing infection, or are simply not erupting properly.
Before making any diagnosis, your dental team will probably take x-rays of your mouth to see if your wisdom teeth are erupting correctly or are impacted. If you have any impacted wisdom teeth, your dentist will most-likely recommend that the tooth be extracted or removed. By removing impacted teeth, your other teeth are less-likely to be affected by its consequences.
However, other procedures or work may need to be performed if your impacted teeth or ill-erupting teeth have caused complications elsewhere in your mouth. Other teeth may need to be worked-on if impacted teeth have pushed them from their natural position or if there is the presence of infection, for example.
While there is not much you can do about your wisdom teeth coming-in, it is essential to know the difference between a normally-erupting tooth and an impacted wisdom tooth. This could mean the different between a healthy and unhealthy mouth. If you have any questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, or think you are suffering from an impact wisdom tooth, consult your dental team right away.