What are the Different Types of Wisdom Tooth Impaction?

Do you currently have an impacted wisdom tooth? While there are some lucky people who do not experience teething pains as their third molars come in, the rest of us have to put up with some level of discomfort.

The reason an erupting third molar can cause awful pain is because of wisdom tooth impaction. For many of us, the pain makes us want to run to the dentist and have the tooth extracted. But, not all tooth impactions are the same — meaning that extraction is not always the answer.

There are different types of wisdom tooth impaction, and the type of impaction determines how the dentist deals with the tooth.

The different ways to categorize a wisdom tooth impaction

When diagnosing a wisdom tooth impaction, a dentist will find out the direction in which the wisdom tooth is growing. This categorization is known as Winter's classification.

The second way of grouping impacted teeth is by the type of tissue that is obstructing the wisdom tooth and causing the impaction.

Grouping wisdom tooth impaction by the type of obstruction

A major reason why wisdom teeth get stuck below the gums is because of an obstruction. When the tooth tries to push its way past the gum line, it can find itself blocked. The result is throbbing pain from the pressure of the tooth trying to break through.

There are two types of obstruction:

Soft tissue impaction: This happens when the crown pushes past the bone but fails to make it past the soft tissue of the gums. Sometimes, part of the tooth erupts past the gums, a kind of impaction also known as a partial eruption. Extracting a tooth with soft tissue impaction is fairly easy.

Bony or hard tissue impaction: This is a type of impaction where the jawbone obstructs the tooth. With a partial bone obstruction, part of the tooth is able to grow past the jawbone. With full bone obstruction, the tooth is completely encased in the jawbone. Bony impaction is corrected with oral surgery to open the gum and a section of bone in order to access and extract the tooth.

Classification of wisdom tooth impaction

A more common way to categorize tooth impaction is by the direction in which the problem tooth grows. This classification has four categories, namely:

1. Vertical impaction

This impaction almost never requires a tooth extraction, since the tooth grows straight towards the gum line albeit at a slight angle. It grows in almost the same way as a normally growing tooth.

That said, the tooth can be removed if it pushes against the adjacent molar or jawbone. Tooth extraction for vertical impaction is simple.

2. Distal impaction

In this case, the tooth angles towards the back of the mouth as it grows. Distal impaction is pretty rare. If the tooth grows at an angle of near zero degrees, it will erupt vertically, but with a slight tilt towards the back of the mouth. A dentist will often choose to leave such a tooth alone.

The tooth could also grow along the jawbone. This is more problematic since the problem tooth is likely to hit bone at some point. A dentist will monitor the tooth to determine if it should be removed.

3. Mesial impaction

This is the opposite of a distal impaction. The impacted tooth grows at an angle, pushing against the adjacent (second) molar. If the tooth grows at a very slight angle, it is likely to erupt without complication. If it has a more horizontal angle of growth, it could push the adjacent teeth out of position. In which case, a dentist will have to extract the tooth.

4. Horizontal impaction

Think of this type of impaction as the worst case scenario of a mesial impaction. The tooth never breaks through the gum, instead of growing along the jawbone and towards the neighboring molar. If the tooth continues to grow, it pushes and crowds the rest of the teeth out of alignment.

To correct the problem, an oral surgeon has to remove the tooth and some jawbone. The oral surgery is done under general anesthesia or IV sedation, with a prescription for post-op antibiotics to prevent infection after the procedure.

Don't let an impacted wisdom tooth take up space in your life

An impacted tooth can hurt for weeks and months on end. The pain, swelling and tenderness can suck the joy out of your life.

Do not wait in pain for the tooth to figure out whether it is ready to come out or not. Contact our team of dental health professionals today and get a definitive answer on what to do about that tooth.

Request an appointment here: https://www.anewsmiledental.com or call A New Smile at (818) 483-9063 for an appointment in our Pacoima office.

Check out what others are saying about our services on Yelp: Read our Yelp reviews.

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