Can wisdom teeth come and go?
As strange as this question may sound, patients sometimes complain that it feels as if their wisdom teeth begin coming in, but then the molars sink back into the gums after a few days or weeks.
Is that even possible?
In most cases, the answer can be found in the condition we generally refer to as impacted wisdom teeth.
What’s Really Happening with Your Wisdom Teeth?
These teeth can’t cut through the gum tissue and sink back down. When you experience that sensation, the likely reason is that they are impacted, or stuck in the gums, and unable to fully erupt.
When the third molars start to penetrate the gum tissue but are not able to come all the way through, infection is likely. Bacteria can easily accumulate around impacted teeth, and thoroughly cleaning the gum tissue can be difficult.
As a result, infection makes the gums swell up, over and around the impacted teeth. This process can make it feel as if they are sinking back into the gums. Once the infection clears up, you’ll feel as if the third molars are erupting once again.
Causes of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Nine out of every 10 U.S. residents have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Why so many? Essentially, it’s because our jaws have evolved to become narrower. Our early ancestors needed the third molars for chewing, but thanks to the modern human ability to cook, we really don’t need them any longer.
And, because of how our skull structures have changed over time, many patients don’t have enough jaw space for the impacted teeth to erupt properly. Their mouths are too crowded, so the third molars can’t completely break through the gum tissue.
Treating Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted third molars don’t always cause pain or discomfort, and sometimes patients aren’t even aware of the problem. Nonetheless, oral surgeons recommend seeking prompt treatment for impacted teeth. In most cases, removal is necessary to prevent a variety of problems.
Teeth that are impacted often grow in at an angle, pushing against the nearby teeth and causing damage. Over time, this can result in a misaligned bite. In some cases, fluid-filled tumors can develop around the base of impacted teeth. Allowed to grow unchecked, these cysts can hollow out the jawbone and prevent the jaw from functioning normally.
Any infection in the gums can become life-threatening, as it could spread from the mouth tissues to vital organs and tissues throughout the body.
The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah has expertise in complex tooth extractions. Call one of our convenient Salt Lake City offices today to schedule a consultation to evaluate your impacted wisdom teeth.