The third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth, are the last to erupt at the back of the mouth. But what happens when a dentist diagnoses a non-erupted wisdom tooth?
In general, the third molar erupts in the period from late adolescence to early adulthood – between 17 and 25 years. However, there are times when the cheek tooth does not break through the gums and cannot come out. Thus, it is wholly or partly trapped below, and we refer to it as an unbroken state of wisdom.
Today’s article will describe how this condition can occur and also its symptoms and complications. You will also read about how dentists treat this problem.
Characteristics of non-erupted wisdom tooth
As we mentioned above, the wisdom teeth are the last to break through at the back of the mouth. There are a total of four cheek teeth: two upper and two lower on both sides.
The thing is, there is often no room for them to break out, so they get stuck and result in an unbroken state of wisdom.
Moreover, in some cases, there is no clear sign that it will ever come out. In others, only part of the tooth erupts, but part of the crown remains under the gums, while some of it is seen in the oral cavity.
Symptoms of unexplained wisdom tooth
Some of these are asymptomatic and patients only learn about them after a dentist’s diagnosis. However, the following symptoms appear in other cases:
- There may be pain in the area where the molar is stuck, or discomfort in the ears and jaw.
- Swelling of the jaw, an enlargement of the area where the non-erupted molar is located – this is common when there is an infection.
- Food gets stuck between the tooth and the gum tissue that covers it when the cheek teeth partially erupt (part of the tooth comes out while the rest remains under the gums). Thus, it makes dental hygiene difficult and therefore bacteria and food accumulate under the gums. It often causes inflammation, pain and bad odor.
- The gums become swollen, red and bleeding.
- Breathing and bad taste in the mouth are affected.
- As the latter, it is difficult to open the mouth.
Contact a dentist if you have any of these symptoms as they may be due to non-erupting wisdom teeth.
Reasons for not erupted wisdom tooth
The main reason for non-erupted wisdom tooth is the lack of space for normal erupting. The cheek tooth remains inside the bone because there is no room for it to erupt.
It can be total where the tooth stays inside the bone and does not go through the gums at all. Partial eruption occurs when some of the tooth remains inside the bone.
Another reason for this change may be an incorrect alignment of the tooth inside the bone, which prevents eruption. This is because the cheek tooth collides with other anatomical structures that do not allow it to erupt in the mouth by growing at the wrong angle.
For example, if the cheek tooth is placed horizontally or obliquely, the growth will abut into the other tooth cheek that is in front of or against the back wall of the mouth. The third cheek teeth can grow inwards or towards the cheeks or stand completely upside down. These abnormal locations make proper outgrowth impossible and give rise to the fact that they cannot grow out.
Some factors increase the risk of unexplained wisdom tooth. It is, for example, to be between 17 and 25 years old and have a small lower jaw.
Diagnosis of unbroken wisdom tooth
The diagnosis of a non-erupted third molar is made through a dentist after a clinical examination, which may include X-rays. They also take into account the reported symptoms and manifestations they observe while exploring the oral cavity.
X-rays confirm the presence of the tooth retained in the bone. In addition, they reveal any lesions that may be in the teeth and the surrounding bone tissue.
This largely depends on whether there are symptoms or not, and these affect a person’s quality of life.
There are times when this condition does not cause discomfort, but they can choose between two alternative approaches:
- Observation. Dentists with a conservative approach recommend checking for non-erupted teeth and leaving them in the mouth. Their reasoning is that a tooth that does not cause problems does not require surgery. Extraction is always possible if problems arise later.
- Preventive extraction. Some professionals recommend extraction of non-erupted teeth to prevent potential problems. They do this to avoid future complications.
However, there is not enough evidence or research to support both approaches.
The dentist will pull out the non-erupted molar if it causes bothersome symptoms. This type of surgery is an outpatient procedure performed by the dentist and lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
After anesthesia of the patient, the gums are cut open and the bone covering the cheek tooth is removed during the procedure. Then they remove the tooth completely, if possible, or in fragments as needed. The wound is then sutured and covered with gauze.
The professional will list all necessary postoperative actions to promote healing, such as rest, cold wraps, anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics and a soft diet to properly recover and prevent complications.
The patient should go to the dentist so they can remove the stitches and check the wound a week after surgery. Slight bleeding, pain, bruising and swelling in the area and difficulty opening the mouth are common manifestations after surgery to remove non-erupted wisdom teeth.
In addition, alveolitis, infections, damage to neighboring teeth, jawbones, nearby nerves, sinuses or temporomandibular joints are less commonly associated complications and require immediate attention.
In addition, contact a doctor as soon as possible if there is severe pain that does not go away, numbness or paralysis of the tongue or difficulty breathing.
Also read: Three home remedy solutions for cutting teeth
Complications of non-erupting wisdom teeth
Non-erupting wisdom teeth make oral hygiene difficult as food debris gets trapped and bacteria begin to multiply in the area. Overall, they can cause some of the following issues:
- Difficulty keeping the oral cavity properly disinfected. This favors the accumulation of bacteria and food debris. This is a predisposing factor for the development of cavities in these teeth.
- The bacteria that accumulate between the tooth and the gums can lead to infections and abscesses.
- The pressure exerted by the non-erupted tooth can also lead to congestion for the other teeth. Thus, orthodontic treatment in addition to wisdom tooth extraction will be necessary to solve this problem.
- Damage to other tooth elements when the unbroken wisdom tooth generates pressure against the other molar. This is because it can affect the tissues and cause inflammation, resorption or mobility of this neighboring tooth. It also leads to infection in the area and can affect nearby teeth.
- Cheek teeth that are still inside the bone are surrounded by a sac, and the persistence of this structure can lead to fluid accumulation and form a cyst that can damage the jaw, teeth and nerves. In addition, it can develop into a tumor. Extraction is necessary and requires removal of part of the bone.
- Accumulation of bacterial plaque in the area due to the difficulty of brushing properly promotes inflammation of the gum tissue.
Some dentists recommend extraction of non-erupting wisdom teeth, even if they do not cause symptoms, due to the possibility of the mentioned complications.
Early dental visits are essential
There is no way to prevent an unbroken wisdom tooth. However, if you go to the dentist every six months, you can monitor the growth of these cheek teeth. In general , regular dental checkups ensure monitoring and early detection of any oral problems you may have.
Non-erupted cheek teeth can change a person’s quality of life, but they can also go unnoticed. Some cases require no treatment, but others require surgery to resolve any problems they cause or to prevent them.
The recommendation is to act as soon as possible when extraction of non-erupted wisdom teeth is needed. Surgery is usually less difficult in young patients as the roots are not yet fully developed. However, the long, curved roots and compact rigid bones can complicate extraction in adults.