The four types of impacted wisdom teeth

Doctor and patient reviewing teeth model

Impacted wisdom teeth are caused when the third row of molars fail to emerge all the way through the gum line. When teeth are impacted, they are trapped between the gum tissue and jawbone and must be extracted in order to prevent damage, discomfort or other health concerns. In this post, we’ll explain the four different types of wisdom tooth impaction and the symptoms to look for if you suspect your wisdom teeth are having trouble coming in.

What causes impaction?

Wisdom tooth impaction is the result of there not being enough space in your mouth to fit a new row of teeth. The lack of room causes the third molars to remain in place or to come in at the wrong angle.

1. Full-bony impacted

With a full-bony impacted wisdom tooth, the entire tooth is embedded in the jaw. This type of impacted tooth is the most difficult to remove. An oral surgeon must extract a tooth that is completely stuck in bone tissue.

2. Partial-bony impacted

A partial-bony impacted wisdom tooth is a tooth that has begun to emerge from the jaw but gets stuck part way. These teeth are easier to extract than full-bony impacted teeth but still require a skilled oral surgeon to complete the procedure.

3. Soft-tissue impacted

Soft-tissue-impacted wisdom teeth are less complicated to remove because the tooth is stuck directly under the gum. These are teeth that were almost ready to erupt but then unable to move any further.

4. Partially-erupted

Partially-erupted wisdom teeth are those that have broken through the gum tissue and appeared in the mouth, but are not able to come in all the way. While these are the simplest teeth to extract, partially-erupted teeth are at risk of infection as food particles and bacteria can grow under the skin flap partially covering the tooth.

Signs that your wisdom teeth might be impacted

  • Swelling and redness behind your last molar or surrounding a partially-erupted wisdom tooth
  • Discomfort and pressure in the back of your jaw
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth when eating

Prevention is key

The best strategy is to have x-rays taken before your wisdom teeth present symptoms to look at your jawbone and determine in advance if you have enough room for new teeth. In most cases, an x-ray and oral examination will accurately predict if you are at risk of impaction.