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Understanding extraction of impacted wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth typically break through the gums between the ages of 17 and 25. While they can come in without any problems, wisdom teeth often get stuck in your gums or jawbone. Known as impaction, this condition can lead to additional oral health concerns.

If you have one or more impacted wisdom teeth, they will need to be surgically extracted by an oral surgeon.

Impacted versus partially impacted wisdom teeth

When a wisdom tooth is fully impacted, no part of the tooth is visible. Your dentist or oral surgeon needs an x-ray to see how the tooth is positioned in your mouth. With a partially impacted wisdom tooth, part of the tooth will be visible above the gum line. The rest of the tooth will remain stuck below the surface and in some cases, a gum flap will cover a section of the tooth. When a gum flap is present, the risk of infection is high, as food particles and bacteria can gather underneath the skin.

Hard tissue versus soft tissue impaction

Depending on how deep your impacted wisdom tooth is, you may hear the terms hard tissue impaction or soft tissue impaction. Hard tissue impaction is when the tooth is fully lodged within your jawbone. Soft tissue impaction is when the tooth has erupted from the bone but has not made it through the gums.

Removing impacted wisdom teeth

To expose the impacted tooth for extraction, your oral surgeon will make a small incision in the gum. Depending on the size and positioning, the tooth may be cut into smaller pieces for easier removal. Once extracted, dissolving stitches are used to close and seal the gum.

After surgery

Care for an extracted impacted wisdom tooth is the same as a non-impacted wisdom tooth. To learn more, read How to make wisdom teeth extraction recovery as easy as possible.